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Sonoma County officials seeking to address the persistent challenge of homelessness in the lower Russian River communities around Guerneville will decide Tuesday whether a site on Armstrong Woods Road might work for a comprehensive homeless services center, though there is opposition.

The nonprofit West County Health Centers, which has long hoped to connect its homeless health care clinic with a county service facility, already has the 9-acre residential property at 15015 Armstrong Woods Road under contract, with an option to buy.

The asking price? Nearly $1 million.

Sonoma County supervisors haven’t weighed in yet, although 5th District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins appears hopeful the Armstrong Woods Road property might resolve a yearslong search for a site for a center linking the homeless with counseling, employment, and financial and housing assistance, along with showers, laundry facilities and a place to eat. Officials also want the land to have room for an overnight winter shelter.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to negotiate in closed session Tuesday with representatives of the seller, West County Health Centers and the Community Development Commission to decide whether the county should get involved in the discussion and take the lead.

“I think that this property is the best opportunity that we’ve had in the seven years that this search has gone on,” Hopkins said last week. “That said, there are legitimate concerns on the part of the community that need to be addressed before moving forward.”

If elected officials agree to pursue the property, the earliest the board could act on a purchase would be April 25, Community Development Commission Executive Director Margaret Van Vliet said.

Frustrated locals are eager for a solution for the nuisance behaviors, safety concerns and other problems linked to members of the homeless community centered downtown and throughout encampments in the Russian River watershed.

At the same time, many are wary of what some see as simply transplanting those problems to the rural, residential road that leads tourists and other visitors into the majestic redwood groves of Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve north of the town center.

Locals are particularly worried about the property’s proximity to Guerneville School, a short distance to the south. The property is within a half-mile of the campus, and even closer to the crosswalk traversing Armstrong Woods Road that’s used by many of its 282 pre-K-8 students.

“We only have one ingress and egress into the school,” Superintendent Dana Pedersen said. “We only have one crosswalk, one way to come, one thoroughfare.”

The county’s Community Development Commission staff said similar conversations occur any time there’s talk of relocating public or social services, but there also are ways to mitigate concerns.

“We’d like to think there’s a way to address the concerns about safety in a humane way and get people services that they actually, genuinely need,” Van Vliet, said.

Hopkins is hosting a public meeting March 29 to take public input on the proposal. She said nothing would be decided without community engagement.

One thing is clear, however, she said, “the status quo is not working at all. The situation in the lower river is untenable.”

Annual point-in-time counts of the greater Guerneville area’s unsheltered persons indicate about 200 people in the area are generally homeless at any given time.

Evacuation Centers

Here is Sonoma County's list of evacuation centers.

Advocates have long acknowledged significant gaps in services for homeless individuals in rural west Sonoma County, where the only shelter runs four months a year in the Veterans Memorial Building downtown, which itself has proved controversial. Many complain that people ejected from the shelter early each winter morning have nowhere to go and instead loiter downtown, sometimes drinking or disrupting neighborhoods.

The county’s goal is to provide a central location for the homeless providing multiple services that might provide enough stability allowing them to secure housing, and behavioral health and substance abuse programs.

The idea is to create a place “where people could get all the services they need to break the cycles that have gotten them into homelessness,” said Jim Leddy, special projects director for the county and a key player in ongoing discussions. “That’s why the property’s ability to host co-location with the health center was a major factor.”

The county has about $1.3 million set aside to cover property acquisition and renovations to open a service center.

It appeared a different location had been found last fall — the site of the former inn and tavern known as George’s Hideaway about a mile and a half west of town. The county moved to purchase the rundown property in October for $700,000 with hopes for a wraparound service center, health clinic and up to 16 permanent housing units.

But the county learned sewer connections would cost nearly $600,000, putting the project out of reach, Leddy said.

The result is the Armstrong Woods Road site, which includes a vacant 1,878-square-foot, custom-built ranch house, horse stables, paddock and workshop.

The property is listed for $995,000.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.