City launches homeless encampment cleanup pilot program

Posted by: Unknown on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at 3:00:00 pm

The City has undertaken a Homeless Encampment Cleanup Pilot Program to address the health, safety and shelter needs of persons experiencing homelessness and living in encampments. A key component of the pilot program is an intensive intervention plan offered in collaboration with the Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST). Intervention services include outreach to people living in encampments to connect them with family, housing, shelter and services.

Intensive outreach, engagement and noticing occupants of the Farmers Lane homeless encampment is already underway. Occupants of the encampment are being provided a minimum two-week period to vacate the area and a team consisting of service providers from Catholic Charities, Sober Sonoma, Homeless with Pets and Santa Rosa Police Officers has visited the encampment and offered the occupants opportunities to reconnect with family and support networks, housing, shelter, and services. The City is pleased to report that several people have already elected to move out of the encampment and taken shelter at Sam L. Jones Hall. “The breadth of services being offered through this pilot program is being well received and we already are seeing positive outcomes from this collaborative effort” said Jennielynn Holmes, Catholic Charities Senior Director of Shelter and Housing.

The pilot program includes repurposing the Samuel L. Jones Hall Homeless Shelter into a 188-bed housing-focused program model with resources and services being allocated towards rapidly moving people from the shelter into permanent housing. Clients of the shelter can avail themselves of the services of staff with expertise in navigating and locating housing, as well as the services of a housing stabilization case manager. Nationally, there are extensive studies showing that housing retention rates increase with the use of a housing-focused intervention combined with intensive case management to provide the support people need to stay housed and address the issues that brought them to homelessness in the first place.

As part of the pilot program, HOST is providing placement opportunities for companion animals. HOST is coordinating with the organization, Homeless with Pets and with local veterinarians to assist pet owners with getting pets certified as a companion animals and addressing the animals’ health needs. “We have received donated crates that will allow the pets owners to bring their animals into the shelter—and we are partnering with Forgotten Felines to help ensure the feral cats living near this encampment are safe before cleanup begins” added Jennielynn Holmes of HOST. Additionally, the housing-focused program is piloting a small kennel program on-site at the shelter, so individuals are not separated from their pets.

“The City’s pilot program in modeled after national best practices to assist those experiencing homelessness” said David Gouin, the City’s Director of Housing and Community Services. As with any pilot program, it is expected that lessons learned through this process will inform efforts to expand this program to other areas of the city. Through active outreach and engagement of the encampment occupants and by providing a variety of services for relocation, including shelter, housing, reunification, and hotel vouchers we hope not to displace the occupants to other areas of the city. Communities across California and the nation are struggling with how to create effective solutions for persons experiencing homelessness and living in encampments. City staff utilized several resources to develop this pilot program, including local expertise through its partnership with Catholic Charities’ HOST Program, and resources available through the United States Interagency on Homelessness and the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Recent data identified approximately 1,900 unsheltered people living in Sonoma County. Collaborating with HOST, a list has been compiled of 44 known encampments throughout Santa Rosa—with the population size of these encampments ranging from a couple of people to 75 people. The list of encampments is intended to help prioritize where resources are best allocated. The list of encampments has been categorized according to the number of individuals living at the site; an assessment of their vulnerability due to living outdoors; associated health, safety, and fire risks; and property ownership. Based on these factors, the homeless encampment at the Farmers Lane Extension was identified as the highest priority. Encampments at the Highway 101 underpasses at Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Streets have also been identified as critical locations and will be addressed after the pilot program at the Farmers Lane encampment has been completed.

Cleanup and Site Management:  Once occupants of the encampment have been offered housing, shelter, and services and the site is vacant, a private security company will monitor the site during the clearing of trash and debris, weeds, brush and other threats to fire safety. The Santa Rosa Police Department will also monitor the area and work with HOST to offer services for anyone seeking to camp at the site once it is vacated.

For more information regarding the Homeless Encampment Cleanup Pilot Program please visit the Homelessness Solutions webpage at www.srcity.org/HomelessSolutions

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