Sonoma Co. opens Emergency Operations Center for first time in response to homeless 'crisis'

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- In an unprecedented move, Sonoma County opened its Emergency Operations Center Tuesday morning to deal with the homeless "crisis" along the Joe Rodota Trail.

"This is actually a first, to stand up our Emergency Operation Center and genuinely treat this like the emergency that it is," says Sonoma County 5th District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins. "We need to mobilize a disaster level response."

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Supervisor Hopkins says over the next 48 hours, a team of around 25 people from various county agencies, will be "working around the clock" to do final evaluations of several county sites identified as locations where they will start to move people to, who are currently living along the trail.

"Where they are at is completely unacceptable. It's extremely hard to actually serve people when they are actually spread out a mile-and-a-half of a linear trail," says Hopkins.

The site atop of the list a parking lot near the Charles Schultz-Sonoma County Airport. It was chosen for its size, being a paved lot and because of its proximity to public transportation.

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"They could actually use the buses, we could provide free bus passes to enable them to get to services, to grocery stores, things like that," says Hopkins.
The location would also have a navigation trailer set up to help with health and social services.

Hopkins insists this is just a "temporary" solution, hoping to house 60 to 80 people over the next three to six months, as a more permanent solution is found.

Hopkins plans to hold a town hall meeting this Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Roseland Library in Santa Rosa to discuss the proposal.

Josh McGarva is the CEO of Western Waters, which is located a few blocks from the proposed parking lot. He says isn't happy about the proposal, but he understands the difficulty the county is facing.

"It's good to see them doing something. I don't think this solution in our backyard is the answer, but I understand that it is hard for them and a difficult situation," says McGarva, adding, "There are no food places, no stores around. So I am not sure they are going to want to stay."

Supervisor Hopkins says the process moving very quickly, so there has not been much time to meet with the community. She will hold a town hall this Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Roselend Library in Santa Rosa to discuss the proposal.

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