Sonoma Co. officials discuss growing Santa Rosa homeless encampment
SANTA ROSA, Calif. - An hours long meeting was held Friday at Santa Rosa's Veteran's Memorial Building to discuss a growing homeless encampment along a trail.
Sonoma County officials are working on ideas for an already-approved indoor-outdoor shelter that they hope will address some of their safety concerns.
Though the meeting was open to the public, only one resident was present at the start of it. Viewers told KTVU they received emails stating it was an “invite-only” meeting, while county health officials insist it was public, though, when asked, they didn’t further explain what steps they took to inform residents that all were welcomed to attend.
County officials say their only goal for Friday was to discuss the future of the indoor-outdoor shelters, which will house about 40 people each.
The homeless encampment along Joe Rododta Trail has grown to more than 200 people and residents are concerned about deteriorating sanitary conditions and growing fire risks.
The local fire department reported they responded to 25 phone calls in the last month.
On Monday a fire in the camp caused a propane tank to explode. No one was hurt.
One neighbor bought guard dogs after his car was broken into. Other neighbors who live on Brittain Lane bought and installed a fence, but part of it was cut down the next day.
Sonoma County declared the trail a "homeless emergency" last month and say they will put into action a "comprehensive plan for outreach, engagement and housing placement."
"Last week we started trash services so we'll have weekly trash pickup. Starting next week it will be three times a week. We have 11 port-o-potties, which was brought on last week as well. Two handwashing stations, pest-control services will begin next week and needle pick-up as well," said Rohish Lal, Sonoma County Department of Health Services.
There are also plans for nightly security patrols to help protect the campers.
However, some neighbors are fed up. Annie Darrimon, who lives near Howarth Park, says she feels the county is putting the needs of those in the encampment ahead of residents like her. She says she doesn't feel safe taking her grandchildren out.
"I'm really angry. We pay a lot of taxes in Santa Rosa and our lives have been affected deeply by what's going on here. It seems like there's groups of do gooders that come out here and enable people that come here from wherever and they leave messes," Darrimon said.
A notice of intent was filed to recall Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins amid the encampment concerns.
The notice claims Hopkins has failed to protect her constituents and allowed the encampment to grow.
The county has until June to establish both facilities.