Homeless man found dead in Santa Rosa was on track to get off the streets

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EDITOR'S NOTE: On Friday, Jan. 11, the Sonoma County Coroner's Office issued a public notice that they had mistakenly identified the deceased man discovered in Santa Rosa Creek as Kenneth David Anderson. The mistaken identification was based on visual confirmation made by a peace officer who had arrested Anderson on previous occasions, according to the Sheriff's Office. Fingerprint results received on Jan. 11, however, confirmed the deceased man was someone other than Anderson, the Sheriff's Office reported. Anderson's family was told of the error by authorities, who are now searching for Anderson, the Sheriff's Office reported. The Press Democrat is publishing a separate story Jan. 11 detailing the Coroner's Office retraction.

Kenneth David Anderson, the homeless man whose body was found in the Santa Rosa Creek near downtown earlier this week, was working with Catholic Charities to obtain housing, according to the organization.

Anderson, 57, was identified Wednesday by the county coroner’s office as the man whose body was found Monday in the creek.

His family is in Iowa but he had been in Sonoma County since at least 2009, said Sgt. Spencer Crum, a spokesman for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.

Jennielynn Holmes, director of shelter and housing for Catholic Charities, said Anderson had been working with the organization and was making progress on finding a place to live. She described him as “soft-spoken and well-liked by his peers” and “happy and light-hearted,” and said his death reinforces the need for a solution to the homeless crisis in Sonoma County.

“It’s very tragic that this happened while we were working with him on his pathway to housing, and just another example of why it is so urgent for us to continue working for our unsheltered population and make sure they don’t meet premature deaths before we’re able to get to that housing solution for them,” she said.

Holmes said the cold, rainy weather common in Sonoma County this time of year presents a serious danger for the homeless population.

“Cold exacerbates existing health issues. We get very worried about a person and their ability to stay healthy and survive in this kind of weather,” she said. “Everything gets wet, your socks, your clothes; you can’t get dry.”

At least 100 homeless people died in Sonoma County from 2013 to 2017, an average of 20 a year, according to the county’s Office of Vital Statistics. Updated statistics were not available Wednesday.

Margaret Van Vliet, the executive director of the county’s Community Development Commission, said there are beds available at all three major Santa Rosa shelters — the Armory, Sam Jones Hall and the Rescue Mission — for anyone who needs to get out of the rain.

“We’ve got a housing shortage, but we do have ways of helping folks get back inside,” Van Vliet said. “The other thing is that we’re trying to make sure that folks engage with outreach workers (and) get themselves assessed for what kind of services they may be eligible for.”

Anyone who would like to speak with a county outreach worker to help get connected with county shelter and housing services can call 1-866-542-5480 or email ce@srcharities.org, Van Vliet said.

A federal report to Congress released in December singled out Sonoma County as having one of the largest homeless populations among suburban communities nationwide, with at least 2,657 homeless adults and 715 chronically homeless people.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, the average life expectancy for homeless people in the United States is 42 to 52 years, while life expectancy overall nationwide is a little under 79 years.

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Beale at 707-521-5205 or at andrew.beale@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @iambeale.

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