Santa Rosa to open tent city for homeless to practice social distance

By next week, an empty parking lot of the Finley Community Center in West Santa Rosa will be a tent city for homeless people. It's an encampment being organized by the city.

"It is all about the health and safety of our homeless population. And lessening the chance of infecting not only the homeless population, but our community as well," said David Gouin, the Santa Rosa Housing and Community Services Director.

According to the latest Census, more than half of the 3,000 homeless people in Sonoma County are in Santa Rosa.

In the larger encampments, social distancing is difficult if not impossible.

The idea is to thin out the encampments by asking people to move into the city's program where there will be 70, four-person tents set up in the parking lot where social distancing will be the rule.

That should also make the other encampments less crowded.

"Folks are in certain areas under the 101 freeway cheek to jowl. We are trying to entice them to leave the that environment for a better social distancing environment. And this encourages folks that remain to stay separated," said Gouin.

The camp will be managed by Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa. And it figures to be safer and healthier than the other camps.

"Hand washing stations, facilities, showers, laundry, and including three meals a day," says Jennielynn Holmes of Catholic Charities.

Relocating is voluntary. Those who do move will be screened and have their temperature taken regularly.

"I don't think we will have a problem filling the site up. A lot of individuals will be looking forward to the stability," said Holmes.

The city sent word out to the community about the plan.

"Every human being, especially right now, deserves a place ro be warm and safe and not worry about how to get food," said resident Barbara Stoker.