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Sonoma County closes deals on multi-unit homes in Santa Rosa and Cotati for $2.12 million

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For more stories about Sonoma County's homeless crisis, go here.

Sonoma County has completed its purchase of two multiunit properties in Santa Rosa and Cotati to help house some of the homeless individuals recently cleared out of a squalid encampment on the Joe Rodota Trail.

The new shared homes come at a combined cost of $2.12 million — part of $4 million to $5 million approved by county supervisors in December for the eventual purchase of up to six multibedroom homes serving as many as 60 clients with wrap-around social service, behavioral health and medical support.

But county officials said they are not actively searching for other properties at the moment, given a variety of projects in the works, including preparing the two new properties for rent, vetting and selecting tenants who will live there, and developing plans for two new indoor- outdoor shelters intended to be in operation by May 1.

“We have our hands full,” board Chairwoman Susan Gorin said Friday.

The newly acquired properties include a two-bedroom Craftsman house at 866 Sonoma Ave., between E Street and Brookwood Avenue, in downtown Santa Rosa.

It has two cottages in the back, each with two additional bedrooms, according to the selling agent, Laura de Rutte of Re/Max Marketplace.

The sale closed Feb. 7 for $1.15 million, she said.

The other property is at 8190 Arthur St., just off East Cotati Avenue, in the central part of town.

It has a duplex with two, two-bedroom units and a cottage, also with two bedrooms, said selling agent Steve Cohn of Keller Williams Realty in Petaluma.

The purchase price was $970,000. That deal closed Tuesday.

The acquisitions are funded with some of $3.8 million the county received in first-round funding through the state’s No Place Like Home Act of 2018, which is specifically intended for permanent supportive housing for people at risk of homelessness or already living on the streets.

Residents will have case managers working with them to address the challenges that contributed to them becoming homeless in the first place and will be expected to abide by their lease agreements and house rules still being developed, county officials said. Those selected for the homes would be well-functioning people who can pass background checks and shown not to have histories of violence or sexual offenses.

Supervisor David Rabbitt noted that the county and its nonprofit already operate about 60 residential properties around Sonoma County for formerly homeless people, and said most people don’t even know it.

But he and others said some neighbors remain concerned about the new plan to locate group houses for the unsheltered in their midst, while others have complained that by notifying the neighbors, “now we’ve stigmatized people,” Rabbitt said.

“I just hope that people understand over the course of time, these are your neighbors, and they’re not that different than the people around you,” he said.

The properties were bought as part of a nearly $12 million suite of measures approved by county supervisors just before Christmas at the height of concern over the Rodota Trail camp, which had expanded along two miles of public park trail into a messy, rat-infested, camp where accidental fires, drug use and police calls were common.

The board also invested $2 million in a 90-day shelter at the county-owned Los Guilicos Juvenile Justice Center off Highway 12 near Oakmont, where 60 people are currently being housed in individual tiny homes.

Next month, supervisors plan to consider alternative sites still being vetted by county staff for two indoor-outdoor shelters to be in operation by May 1, when Los Guilicos Village phases out. The new shelters are to have capacity for about 40 people — indoors, if it’s wanted, as well as in safe parking areas or outdoor camp sites.

Supervisors had initially eyed three homes for their initial supportive housing purchases, including a seven-bedroom home on downtown Santa Rosa’s Davis Street, though it was dropped from consideration in mid-January.

But even though they had hoped, overall, to be able to house up to 60 people total, further real estate pursuits are on the back burner, officials said.

“We aren’t in that process right now,” Gorin said. “We have our hands full just trying to identify sites” for the new shelters.

Supervisors have said that the county’s recent search for sites and operators of permanent indoor-outdoor shelters has generated few leads, forcing the county to dig deeper in search of locations.

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

For more stories about Sonoma County's homeless crisis, go here.

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