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Kashia Pomo tribe gets $2.7 million grant to house homeless members

A Native American tribe based at a remote reservation in the hills of northwest Sonoma County has received a nearly $2.7 million state grant to provide housing for homeless tribal members.

Paired with a recent $900,000 federal grant, the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians now has about $3.6 million to pursue its housing goal and is negotiating the purchase of a 20-unit motel on Santa Rosa Avenue that would be renovated for residential use.

Tribal Chairman Dino Franklin declined to identify the property since the deal has not been concluded, but said Wednesday the motel would house single adults and small families.

The motel would be the first tribal housing apart from the 500-acre Stewarts Point Rancheria, where about 70 members live in an isolated community on Skaggs Springs Road about 4 miles east of the coast.

Housing has been “a high priority for the tribe,” Franklin said, noting that Pomo traditions “have taught us to look out for each other.”

Most of the tribe’s nearly 1,100 members live in Sonoma County, with some in Lake and Mendocino counties and others scattered across the nation, he said.

About three dozen members have reported being homeless in Sonoma County, Franklin said, estimating it is an undercount because “some folks don’t consider themselves homeless if they have a couch to sleep on.”

The Kashia Pomo are working on a larger housing project for low-income member families, he said.

The housing prospects “help us look to the future. We are a resilient people,” said Franklin, a Ukiah resident.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the Kashia grant Monday in a $236 million package of awards for 20 renovated housing projects in 12 communities totaling 1,810 units, including hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings and other properties.

Kashia’s grant is the first to a tribal project from the state’s $600 million Homekey program, which has now doled out more than $312 million to spur housing conversions for homeless people, the state Department of Housing and Community Development said.

“There is not a state in America that has committed this kind of capital infusion and purchasing power to get people off the street and into permanent housing thanks to Homekey,” Newsom said in a statement.

Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose district includes the Stewarts Point Rancheria, said it was “wonderful to see the state of California partnering with a tribal group.”

The Kashia Pomo and two other North Coast Pomo tribes each received a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in July.

The first round of California’s Homekey awards, announced last week, included nearly $9.7 million to Mendocino County for 56 units of housing for homeless people in Ukiah.

Sonoma County has applied for Homekey funding to acquire the 42-room Hotel Azura in Santa Rosa for about $16.5 million and the 31-room Sebastopol Inn in Sebastopol for about $9.9 million.

Sonoma County had 2,951 homeless people in last year’s on-the-street census, with the category of American Indian/Alaska native accounting for 6% of individuals and 15% of families, said Jennielynn Holmes, chief program officer for Catholic Charities, the county’s largest homeless service provider.

That ethnic group accounted for 7% of the individual homeless population in 2018, a jump up from 1% the year before. Displacement by the 2017 wildfires may have caused the uptick in homelessness, Holmes speculated.

The Homekey program, like any effort to house homeless people, “is greatly appreciated,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @guykovner.

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