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Santa Rosa public forum seeks homelessness solutions

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Santa Rosa is holding its first of several public forums on homelessness Wednesday in an effort to hammer out a comprehensive homelessness strategy and solve what Mayor Chris Coursey has called a “disconnect” on the City Council over how the city should respond to the problem.

The first meeting takes place at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the city’s Utility Field Operations (UFO) building at 35 Stony Point Road.

The meeting seeks to educate the public about existing city and county social services and homelessness efforts and to enhance coordination between the two entities.

The meetings were proposed by Coursey after it became apparent the council’s three-member homelessness subcommittee was not helping the council achieve consensus on a solution. The committee has since been disbanded.

Specifically, the council seems stumped about whether its “Housing First” strategy, which prioritizes getting people into permanent supportive housing as a starting point for services, is consistent with expanding the number of available shelter beds or safe camping locations in the city.

In an open letter to the community, Coursey noted that homelessness has declined in the city 36 percent since 2011, but remains a visible problem. He outlined several of the city’s ongoing homelessness efforts, including increasing its funding for the Homeless Outreach Services Team, which proactively looks to engage homeless people to get them the services they need, and the Community Housing Assistance Program, which changed the zoning rules to allow community groups to offer safe camping programs on certain properties.

“Though we have had some successes, we are very much aware of the frustration still felt in the community related to this issue and want to invite you to join our efforts,” Coursey wrote.

For those who cannot attend the forum in person, it will be both livestreamed and video recorded for later playback, like all City Council meetings.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 707-521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @srcitybeat.

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