Santa Rosa police disband reclaimed homeless camp in Roseland
Police and Sonoma County officials on Tuesday stopped a short-lived attempt to reclaim a gravel lot behind the Dollar Tree store in Roseland by some of the scores of homeless people forced to move from place to place since their eviction from a long-term encampment there last spring.
Under the watchful eye of Santa Rosa police officers, about 25 people packed up tents and other belongings, just as rain arrived in the region for what were expected to be several stormy days this week.
Few of those displaced by Tuesday’s action knew where they were headed next, though at least seven accepted placement at local shelters, according to Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa.
A handful simply relocated, at least temporarily, to the front of the Sebastopol Road store and hunkered down beneath an overhang as the rainfall strengthened.
“This is our everyday life,” Rena Patterson said as she prepared to move down the Joe Rodota Trail, a friend’s white chihuahua snuggled inside the zippered front of her hooded jacket. “Every time I get somewhere, I gotta pack up and go again.”
The expulsion of homeless individuals from an area once occupied by a sprawling community known variously as Camp Michela, Last Chance Village and Remembrance Village is the latest in a series of confrontations between public officials and congregations of homeless individuals around the city of Santa Rosa over the past year or so, as groups ejected from one place resettled elsewhere only to be forced to move on.
Housing officials and shelter providers have worked hard to enhance availability of rooms for those who have no permanent homes, but it is a slow, costly process. There are not enough beds, and many in need find the options are not tailored sufficiently to meet their needs and get them off the streets.
The result is that hundreds of people still live outdoors, without a legal, safe place to camp. When they do gather somewhere, the sheer numbers often become overwhelming, augmented by health and safety issues, including lack of sanitation.
The Dollar Tree encampment was still small and less than two days old. Some of its members said they arrived Sunday after CHP officers on Saturday night ordered them out of their encampment of several weeks under Highway 12. A few more people arrived Monday.
They pitched their tents against the north side of the concrete building and moved segments of chain-link fence that had surrounded the empty land — slated for affordable housing development — closer to their encampment.
Steve Singleton, who emerged as a community leader in the waning days of Camp Michela last winter and spring, said Tuesday that he thought returning there offered the possibility of a few weeks of peace and quiet while local officials resolve how to allocate an estimated $12 million in one-time state homeless emergency funds anticipated by the county.
Singleton, who is in his 50s, said those experiencing homelessness need to be able to stay somewhere day to day just to function. They otherwise spend their entire day packing up, storing their things, figuring out where to sleep at night and otherwise tending to immediate needs, making it impossible to work or otherwise build a life.