Sonoma County delays move of Joe Rodota Trail homeless to sanctioned camp
Sonoma County officials have postponed efforts to move scores of people off the Joe Rodota Trail into a temporary sanctioned camp at the Los Guilicos Juvenile Justice Center site in east Santa Rosa, pushing back to Sunday an effort that was slated to start Wednesday.
The county’s nonprofit contractor, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, says it’s not ready to go, and Sonoma County General Services Director Caroline Judy said just 30 of the 60 individual housing units at the site have been completed. County staff have also been slow to sign up for the extra work necessary to move residents into the new, sanctioned camp, according to emails and other documents obtained by The Press Democrat.
“We don’t want to be building the plane after takeoff,” said Jack Tibbetts, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul, explaining why his group asked for an extension.
Officials say they still plan to meet the county’s self-imposed Jan. 31 deadline for clearing the trail, where up to 250 homeless people were camped last week.
The postponement in populating the Los Guilicos site comes amid lingering blowback from residents of Oakmont, the senior community that sits across Highway 12 to the west of the proposed camp.
It also delays relief for some of the county’s most vulnerable homeless residents, who have for months lived outside in cold, wet weather and squalid conditions, including a rat infestation in camp. Neighbors of the trail have dealt with stolen property and break-ins, nighttime disturbances and the risk of cooking and heating fires spreading into their yards.
Sonoma County staff have already identified 57 people for the Los Guilicos camp, which has a capacity of 60, and now plan to move the first 30 of those people to the new site starting Sunday.
Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Susan Gorin said another 100-plus shelter beds are available as of Tuesday, and the county planned to use vouchers for hotel or motel stays to offer the rest of the trail residents an alternative to the trail, which will be closed by force Jan. 29 by action of the Santa Rosa Police Department and Sonoma County Regional Parks.
Officials are still working to complete the purchase of two homes that could offer shared housing for up to 24 trail residents, as well as ongoing efforts to bring the Gold Coin Motel and Economy Inn on line for transitional housing solutions.
But as many as one-third of the Joe Rodota Trail residents are expected to turn down all services, finding their own solution, potentially on another piece of public property.
Health Services Director Barbie Robinson said officials won’t stop working to bring those people inside. She stressed that the short- and long-term housing steps the county is taking — at a combined cost of $11.63 million — represent progress in the county’s struggle to curb homelessness.
Initial plans called for a six-day timeline to clear the Joe Rodota Trail starting at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. County staff were asked to volunteer to inventory belongings, haul materials and drive residents of the west homeless encampment to their new, temporary homes 9 miles away. But few staffers had stepped forward for those roles as of Tuesday, according to the publicly accessible sign-up sheet.