Sonoma County clearing homeless encampments to reopen Joe Rodota Trail

Sonoma County officials announced Friday that the process of relocating homeless people from the Joe Rodota Trail to alternative shelters had begun.

A section of the trail, which runs along state Highway 12 between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, closed on July 8 due to safety concerns for those using the pathway, county officials said. The section between Dutton Avenue and Stony Point Road is expected to reopen within a week of the two encampments along the trail being cleared.

Homeless individuals in the two encampments are being offered alternative shelter by county officials, as required under a 2019 decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the case Martin v. City of Boise that determined that lawmakers cannot pass complete restrictions on sleeping in public without meeting certain criteria, like having a bed available as an alternative.

The Sonoma County Department of Health Services and the county's Community Development Commission are working to identify shelter space for the 30 to 35 people within the encampments, working alongside Spanish-speaking staff and moving belongings with those who choose to relocate to a shelter.

The county's Homeless Encampment Access and Resource Team began offering shelter Thursday to the homeless individuals, with the team moving those who opt in beginning Friday.

The county said that people who choose to not relocate to alternative shelters will begin receiving notices Friday to clear their belongings and vacate the property by Tuesday at 8 a.m.   Following the removal of the encampments, officials said a cleanup process of the trail will begin. Fencing will remain in the area while the cleaning process is underway, county officials said, and will help prevent the formation of other encampments.

The Joe Rodota Trail is expected to reopen with a week of the planned removal Tuesday of the encampments.

Sonoma County officials said they are continuing to address the shortage of shelter options for homeless people through the work of Los Guilicos Village, Project Homekey, safe parking programs, the repurposing of non-congregate trailers and Caritas Village, an affordable housing project that will soon open in Santa Rosa.

Three Project Homekey sites are also expected to open soon, providing 144 new housing units across sites in Healdsburg, Petaluma and Rohnert Park by the end of the year.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors also allocated $2 million to implement safe parking programs and interim housing options in Petaluma, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol.