Rohnert Park’s first homeless housing site opens Monday
Rohnert Park will welcome the first residents to its new $15 million homeless housing site on Monday.
The 60-unit project on Labath Avenue is Rohnert Park’s first effort to house some of its estimated 250 unsheltered residents.
Officials in Sonoma County’s third largest city hope the new space provides them with an additional tool to address rising homelessness, particularly a large encampment on Roberts Lake Road that has caused growing concern among residents and businesses.
“Labath Landing gives us a really important asset to respond to homelessness in Rohnert Park,” Assistant City Manager Don Schwartz said.
The project provides people experiencing homelessness with temporary housing and wraparound services while they work with a case manager to find lasting homes. The city anticipates serving about 100 people a year there, Schwartz said.
The facility, less than a mile south of Graton Resort and Casino, was paid for through the state’s Project Homekey. The $3.6 billion program launched in 2020 gives local jurisdictions and tribal governments money to repurpose motels for housing and build new shelters.
On Wednesday, about 50 construction workers raced to finish work at the city-owned acre lot, paving the parking lot and access road, nailing down decks and installing landscaping.
Volunteers were expected to be on site to set up furniture and decorate the rooms in the coming days.
Rohnert Park officials on Sunday will celebrate the completion of the project with tours of the facility and a ceremony before transporting new residents to the site on Monday.
The city anticipates units will be 90% occupied when it opens, Rohnert Park’s Housing Administrator Jenna Garcia said.
Officials have made offers to about 50 people camping in the commuter parking lot on Roberts Lake Road and in an encampment in Hinebaugh Creek to move into Labath Landing, Garcia said.
“People are really eager to move in,” she said.
Officials will reorganize remaining residents at the commuter lot into a smaller, managed camp on the east side of the lot after transitioning people into the new units.
Labath Landing is made up of about a dozen prefabricated modular homes.
People will be housed in small private rooms, each outfitted with a lofted twin bed with storage space below and a desk. Twelve of the rooms are compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act and are slightly larger with capacity for up to two people such as a couple.
Residents will share communal bathrooms and there is a community room with a dining area, conference room and computer lab. The campus has laundry facilities, additional storage space, a community garden and pet relief area.
Labath Landing will be operated by Milpitas-based nonprofit HomeFirst, which will have staff on site to provide case management, mental health counseling and other services. Prepared meals will be given to residents.
The majority of the units are reserved for individuals with high needs such as those considered chronically homeless, older residents and people with disabilities or health issues, Garcia said.
Chronic homelessness, where a person has been continually homeless for a year or more or has experienced homelessness on several occasions within the past three years, spiked in Sonoma County over the past two years despite a surge in government spending, according to a February point-in-time count.
In approving the project last year, city officials said Rohnert Park needed more housing for the homeless to effectively enforce camping and overnight parking rules.
The City Council last October voted to seek financing for the project, over objections from Graton Casino operators and two nearby hotels. The state approved the city’s full $14.6 million funding request in December.
Crews broke ground on the project in June and have been working round-the-clock to finish construction under a tight deadline from the state to open within 10 months of being awarded funding, Garcia said.
Rohnert Park has received a subsidy from the state to help pay for operations and has qualified for a $600,000 early occupancy bonus that will be put toward operating costs. The city will also receive money from a funding framework set up by Sonoma County to provide operating funds to Homekey sites for seven years.
Garcia said the site will provide a safe environment for people to get stabilized and the private setting will help better meet residents’ needs compared to a congregate shelter, which can be a deterrent for people seeking services.
“Labath Landing demonstrates the city’s commitment to addressing homelessness,” Mayor Jackie Elward said in a statement. “It will address the crisis on our streets by providing a place for people to gain stability as they transition to permanent housing and help people move out of homelessness for good.”
You can reach Staff Writer Paulina Pineda at 707-521-5268 or email@example.com. On Twitter @paulinapineda22.
Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park city reporter
Decisions made by local elected officials have some of the biggest day-to-day impacts on residents, from funding investments in roads and water infrastructure to setting policies to address housing needs and homelessness. As a city reporter, I want to track those decisions and how they affect the community while also highlighting areas that are being neglected or can be improved.
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