Redevelopment changes hit Rohnert Park nonprofits
Published: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 5:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 5:19 p.m.
Three nonprofits, hand-in-hand with the city of Rohnert Park, have given emergency housing funds to thousands of families, and housed or rebuilt the homes of hundreds more over the years.
But the future of that partnership, funded for about three decades by the city's redevelopment housing funds, looks grim now that redevelopment agencies have been eliminated.
“It's a severe threat,” said John Records, executive director of Committee on the Shelterless, or COTS, which runs five transitional housing facilities and a 24-unit supportive services apartment complex for very low-income residents in the city.
As city officials look for a stopgap measure to cushion the blow, the nonprofits are steeling themselves and searching for options.
“We're all kind of scrambling around to find additional funding so the families of Rohnert Park won't get lost in the homelessness abyss,” said Jim Gattis, executive director of Sonoma County Adult and Youth Development, or SCAYD.
The city's economic development director, Linda Babonis, said she will recommend the City Council support the nonprofits with funding from in-lieu housing fees collected from developers, as it did this fiscal year.
That, she said, will provide a “source for one last year and it's not enough to fully fund everyone.”
There is about $240,000 in those fees available, she said, adding, “There's no guarantee they (the council) will approve it.”
SCAYD, COTS and Rebuilding Together, which rehabilitates houses owned by low-income residents, received $285,000 from the city this year. The city used the in-lieu fees instead of redevelopment money this year, not knowing the future of its redevelopment agency.
But in prior years, the city funded the nonprofits from redevelopment dollars; in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, it gave them a combined $355,000.
For decades, the nonprofits have been the social service safety net in Rohnert Park, which, like most small cities, provides no such function of its own.
Without their services, and especially in a down economy, officials say the city will feel the brunt of the troubles experienced by a population at greater risk of homelessness and under more strain.
“We'll see an increase in truancy, substance abuse, child abuse,” said Gattis. “We all know that unemployment and homelessness are all stressors related to these other issues.”
SCAYD, in the last six months of 2011, gave emergency housing grants to 58 Rohnert Park and Cotati households — 150 people, 40 percent of whom were children — Gattis said. The grants were funded from the $130,000 the group got from the city.
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