Homeless told to leave camp in Santa Rosa to pave way for apartments, retail center

About a hundred people living in a Santa Rosa homeless encampment have been told that Thursday is the day they need to leave. 

The legal fight has been over the future of the Roseland homeless encampment off Sebastopol Road, behind a Dollar Tree store and shopping center. Homeless advocacy groups sued the county last month to stop the eviction. But they lost. A federal judge extended the deadline to clear the camp – and that extension ends on Thursday.

One woman says she has been living in a tent there for months and that her neighbors are like family.


"I'm sad because I don't know where my friends are going. We are all splitting up today," said Brenda LaRose.


The land is owned by Sonoma County, where officials have been trying to clear the camp for months in order to build a 175-unit apartment complex with a plaza and retail space. About a third of the apartments would be designated as affordable housing.


The move, while difficult and messy, has been relatively problem free. "We have had no issues. We"ve made no arrests. It's gone smoothly," said Santa Rosa police Sgt. Jonathan Wolf.


Outreach teams from Catholic Charities have been trying to work with the residents here.


"Over the last 30 days we have gotten 40 people into temporary shelter and six permanently housed," said Jennielynn Holmes, Homeless Coordinator for Catholic Charities.


Homeless advocacy groups say it’s cruel to force the people living here to leave because there is simply no place for them to go and shelter space is in short supply. They claim civil rights violations because homeless people have nowhere else to go.


"It really sucks because we have no idea where to go. We are stuck here on the bike trail and the rangers are out here to harass us. It's a bunch of bull," said LaRose.


County officials had set up a navigation center to help direct people to housing options, but many in this camp are physically and mentally disabled and say sleeping with dozens of others in a shelter isn’t an option.


Homeless resident Robin Hall said she doesn’t want to leave. “We have our own freedom here, our own space,” she said. “I don’t know what the solution is.” 


By Thursday evening, the cleanup was not completed. It may take another day or two, but sleeping on the site is prohibited.