Refugees from Joe Rodota Trail homeless camp filtering out into Santa Rosa
In the cold and fog Saturday morning, Danae Hayworth gazed absently at traffic passing by on Sebastopol Road, her legs bouncing restlessly though she was exhausted from hauling all her stuff.
She sat on the edge of a wheeled dolly stacked neatly with bins and folded bedding, resting on the sidewalk near the southwest Santa Rosa post office. She had just run out of steam transferring her belongings from a self-storage business on Lombardi Court, where she had bedded down the previous night.
On the lawn several yards behind her was an upright grocery buggy packed with her tent and other belongings, its tires flat. Her bike lay on the sidewalk beside her.
Her purse, she said, fell off her bike the night before while leaving her campsite along the Joe Rodota Trail. “Some girl ran off with it,” she said. Inside was the debit card that allowed her to access her Social Security funds. She had forgotten the passcode for her phone, and she hadn’t been able to call and put a stop on the card, which worried her.
Like scores of other unhoused individuals who in recent months had made their homes on a popular public trail stretching west from Santa Rosa, Hayworth, 50, finds herself once again in limbo — aimlessly wondering where to go next, now that the county has closed the unsightly camp that took root on the trail late last summer and just kept growing.
“I’m glad the kids have the trail back,” Hayworth said brightly. “The kids need it.”
Sonoma County officials estimated as many as 250 people had taken up residence along about 2 miles of the 8½-mile trail linking Santa Rosa and Sebastopol by the time authorities cleared everyone off Friday. County officials declared the sprawling, rat-infested encampment a humanitarian crisis in which there were open drug sales and drug use, inadequate sanitation, fire hazards and many other public health and safety threats.
But even after funneling $2 million into a temporary village of tiny homes for 60 residents fresh off the trail, and persuading several dozen other residents to accept emergency shelter elsewhere, stakeholders estimate 100 or more people were scattered to the winds. All were ordered to leave the trailside encampment with whatever property they could salvage before the chain-link fencing was chained shut.
New encampments of 10 to 12 people already had sprung up Saturday at the Piner Road Skate Park and on a short stretch of road near a cow pasture off West Robles Road in southwest Santa Rosa, though police had stopped by both to tell occupants to move on.
Up and down Sebastopol Road — on roadway shoulders, in parking lots, in the alcoves of commercial buildings — mounded shopping carts piled with bike parts, wooden pallets and bright blue tarps offered clues Saturday of the exodus from the trail encampment. More makeshift wagon trains were amassed outside the trail fencing on both sides of Stony Point Road, as well as on a wide patch of shoulder at Sebastopol Road and Brittain Lane.
If their owners were anywhere nearby, they generally shared the same dazed look — what one man described as a “zombie-like” appearance he’d observed across the area when the trail was officially cleared of its occupants and locked up late Friday.