New Santa Rosa homeless encampment pops up not far from another that was just cleared

A new homeless camp is attracting attention in Santa Rosa, only a few miles from the one that was forcibly cleared just a week ago. 

Critics say it's inevitable because government at all levels isn't providing permanent solutions. 

"Everyone needs a different approach, they are individual in how they heal, how they trust, how they learn," said advocate Rochelle Roberts, who has helped many of the campers from the Joe Rodota Train resettle. 

Hundreds of people lived at the public trail for months, and it's now off limits, with chain-link fences keeping people from returning.

The new settlement is about 3.5 miles to the southwest.       

A Sonoma County Sheriff's deputy accompanied code enforcement officers on Thursday afternoon as they passed through, posting notices to clear tents from the county-owned road.    

"But there's a locked gate on one end and it's unpaved and overgrown at the other" objected Marcos Ramirez, another activist working with the homeless. 

The officer shrugged; the notices declare "unpermitted camping" is not allowed on the rural plot. 

Ramirez, with the group Squeaky Wheel Bicycle Coalition, noted the road is impassable, and has pastures on both sides, and warehouses in the distance.  

"Really this is about people trying to make homeless folks disappear without providing real options," said Ramirez. 

When the Rodota Trail was cleared, hundreds of people had to scatter.

About a quarter of them were able to move into tiny cabins at a new village.

Others were offered assistance such as shelter beds or hotel vouchers. 

But about 30, by choice or necessity, landed on the patch of pavement where cows can be heard mooing nearby.

"When I went into treatment it was hard for me to be indoors," said former trail camper Rena Patterson, who went from there straight into a rehab program for meth. "Inside, I had nightmares at night and I felt like it was claustrophobic because living out here for ten years, it's a hard thing."  

Patterson said she plans to continue her recovery and in time help others do the same. 

"It's very clean out here and they've been here for almost a week," said Roberts, a founder of the group Sonoma County Acts of Kindness.

Volunteers built restrooms, make sure garbage is carted away, and have erected a warming tent for chilly nights.  

"They do not want it to be the Joe Rodota trail, they do not want to live in filth," said Roberts. 

She is part of a growing coalition of volunteers who are doing homeless outreach, delivering donations and meals, and making one on one connections.  

Roberts is aware their critics call them "enablers."

"It's not enabling, it's support, it's being supportive and caring for another human being," Roberts said. 

But those who live next to the Rodota Trail, who lobbied to be rid of the burgeoning camp, are dismayed to see another settlement spring up.

"Did they ask any of the neighbors if they wanted them to be there?" posed critics Jason Kindle, member of a group called Citizens for Action Now. 

"I don't see what gives anybody the right to take people from one spot to another," said Kindle. 

"I understand their need to help people but at what cost?" 

Both Kindle and neighbor Lino Musso are glad quiet has returned with the campers gone. 

But they are disappointed local government didn't have a better plan for those they evicted. 

"Realistically, it's not fixing the problem, it's just moving it from one spot to another," said Musso. 

Sonoma County plans to open at least one sanctioned campground, possibly at the fairgrounds, in the next few months. 

But both allies and adversaries agree solutions have not come quickly or creatively enough.  

"People are all over the place, camps all over Santa Rosa," said Ramirez.

"Officials are patting themselves on the back saying they offered people options but there were simply not enough options for everyone."

Caught in the middle are property owners like Angel Nunez, who runs cattle on the land next to the new campground. 

Without pointing fingers, he says he has already had some fences cut, putting his herd at risk. 

He is surprised to find his cattle co-existing with a growing campground. 

"You start talking about e-coli, you start talking about health issues, and with livestock that's my biggest concern," said Nunez.

"But I understand that they need a place to go."

The violation notices posted Thursday order campers to leave "immediately," but don't specify an enforcement deadline.