Temporary Santa Rosa homeless shelter may become permanent because of COVID-19

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ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Temporary North Bay homeless shelter may become permanent because of COVID-19
An emergency homeless shelter in Santa Rosa, set up to help people during the coronavirus pandemic, may become permanent.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- You might never know that the peaceful, quiet, Joe Rodota Trail we see in Sonoma County, today, has come a long way since last winter.

"Well it's clean here. Not a lot of homeless tents anymore," said Robin Marrs while commuting on his bicycle.

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Based on its condition now, homeless advocates in Sonoma County can claim a victory of sorts after moving many of those residents eight miles west of Santa Rosa to the Los Guilicos Village, a temporary emergency shelter that was supposed to close April 30.

"We never believed that," said Greg Rhodes of Oakmont.

That community lies a few hundred yards away from Los Guilicos, across Highway 12.

While a few residents wanted to give the shelter a chance. Many others opposed it.

"This is a poor choice in dire circumstances," said one woman last January.

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County records show that while some residents left and others were kicked out for violating rules, roughly one-third of the rest have moved on successfully. It's one reason that the county now wants to make this shelter permanent. But across the way in Oakmont?

"It seems like most people here feel they got double-crossed," said resident Susan Olsen.

So what changed? We asked Supervisor Lynda Hopkins. Those homeless along the Rodota Trail used to be in her district. "I think what changed is we are in the midst of a pandemic situation. We need every ounce of shelter capacity on Sonoma County..."

It is a diminishing capacity now that Sonoma State University has cancelled a contract with the county to house 100 homeless people in dorms.

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The change makes Los Guillicos more of a lifeline than ever. But, it's in the wrong place, according to Supervisor Susan Gorin. "It is absolutely the worst place to deliver services," she said.

Supervisor Gorin lives in Oakmont. She has opposed the Guilicos shelter from the beginning, only because of its impractical location.

"There is nothing there. Nothing for miles. This is not a NIMBY issue. This is a great model. Every supervisor should have this model in his or her district."

It is an issue the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will discuss tomorrow, undoubtedly at length.

And, another complication, thanks to COVID-19.

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