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Santa Rosa's Sloan House women's shelter facing likely future relocation

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At first, Athina Cordova was disheartened when she learned about the likely sale of land that includes the shelter where she has stayed since November.

Homeless on and off since she was 11 years old, Cordova, now 41, has enjoyed the secluded and residential setting of the Sloan House women’s shelter in the northeastern Santa Rosa hills.

“It brought me to tears a little bit,” Cordova said. “This place has been here for a long time.”

Like her case manager, however, Cordova decided to view the situation optimistically, hoping the move will bring Sloan House into a larger space where it can serve more people.

Managed by the nonprofit Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County, the shelter has operated for more than a decade out of a houselike shelter where homeless women and children live on a temporary basis. Residents can stay for up to six months and requirements for those living at the shelter include filling out a goal sheet and, searching for housing and employment.

But the county-owned land on which Sloan House is located, near the former Sutter Medical Center on Chanate Road, is poised to change hands soon. The Board of Supervisors voted in February to advance plans to sell 82 acres in the area to developer Bill Gallaher, who envisions building a housing development there with as many as 800 units and addition including trails, a grocery store, recreation center, dog park and 68 acres of open space.

The sale is not yet final and it remains unclear exactly when Sloan House will need to relocate. But Tim Reese, the community partnership’s executive director, indicated it will be difficult to replicate the environment of the shelter’s current location.

“It is peaceful. It is restorative,” Reese said. “Relocating is a major issue, because where is the shelter going to be relocated to? Any old place in any old building in any old neighborhood will not suffice.”

Situated among trees with an outdoor space that includes a healing garden, the seclusion of the 22-bed shelter is key to helping its residents, many of whom are survivors of domestic violence, said case manager Kathy Ries.

“They’re not in fear,” Ries said. “They’re not in survival mode. They’re able to really focus on what needs to be focused on. The environment around the shelter, as well as what goes on in it — it’s therapeutic.”

Komron Shahhosseini, Gallaher’s project manager, said Sloan House, like other nonprofits located on the project area, would not have to move immediately as a result of the sale. Once the transaction closes, Shahhosseini has said he plans to meet with nonprofits that use the site to determine their needs.

“We will continue with the same arrangement they had with the county,” he said. “They’ll continue on until we need to break ground, and that could be a while.”

Should the property sale ultimately go through, as is expected within a few months, the proposed development will still need to work its way through Santa Rosa’s planning process. Supervisor Shirlee Zane, whose district includes the Chanate Road site, said the services offered by Sloan House are sorely needed in Sonoma County, especially for women survivors of domestic violence. She said the county, which has provided free rent to Sloan House, has arranged real estate assistance to help the shelter find a new space, but likely does not have any additional land of its own to offer.

“It would be great for a benefactor to come forward and offer a home that maybe they could subsidize themselves, like the county has,” Zane said.

Ries, for her part, hopes that any future move, whenever it would occur, transitions Sloan House seamlessly into a larger space where it could provide shelter to more people and hire additional staff members.

“I’m optimistic that it’s going to be bigger and better and more beautiful,” Ries said. “What we do here, it can be even greater than it is. But we would love to stay.”

You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or jd.morris@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @thejdmorris.

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