Santa Rosa setting up tents for homeless in community center lot

Santa Rosa officials Wednesday said as many as 70 tents for the homeless will be set up in a parking lot at the Finley Community Center in the western part of the city next week with occupancy beginning a week later.

The 24,600-square-foot city-owned parking lot at 2060 W. College Ave. will be for temporary use to provide safe social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The site is expected to operate through the duration of the county's shelter-in-place order, which continues until rescinded, extended, superseded or amended.

The tents the city is providing for the site will be spaced 12 feet apart for social distancing. Each tent can accommodate one person or a couple. The tents will house people who are not considered at high risk of contracting the coronavirus.

A nearby area will have space for portable toilets, hand-washing stations, meal delivery, on-site management and services coordinated by Catholic Charities staff. Overnight on-site security will be provided.

"We are moving forward with this emergency temporary measure given the urgent need to protect the city's unsheltered homeless community as they are some of the most vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus," Mayor Tom Schwedhelm said.

"This new, managed site offers a safer, temporary option for those who have been living outdoors in situations where social distancing is challenging if not impossible," Schwedhelm said.