Friday, August 7, 2020

County Purchase of the Sebastopol Inn Hearing at Sebastopol City Hall on Tuesday Evening

Editor's Note:  The public meeting on the purchase and operation of the Sebastopol Inn will be held this Tuesday evening at 6pm.  Check the City website for additional information.   

From: *Gale Brownell* 

Date: Wed, Aug 5, 2020 at 2:06 PM
Subject: Proposed use of Sebastopol Inn for supportive housing
To: Sandy Smith 
Cc: Arthur George 

Hi Sandy and Art-

You have mentioned in the past that your group were interested in helping out if there ever was an issue that needed positive public input.

The City Council held its first discussion about the potential conversion of the Sebastopol Inn to Permanent Supportive Housing, initially to house Seniors  and vulnerable people who have been exposed or who are at particular risk to Covid, then as housing for people who have been homeless.  The 31 units would provide not only stable housing, but case management, oversight, and other supportive services.  The initial public comments were, as expected, skewed towards opponents who ask things like why there? And, how would this affect our community? The Mayor is concerned that the public be aware of the potential positive impacts during the Covid epidemic and beyond, and asked that I try to energize potential supporters to make comments at the future hearing(s). They are being held the 1st and 3rd Tuesday evenings, on-line now, of course.

Would you be willing to do the favor of informing your friends of the issue (referring them to me if they want more info)?  I gathered some pertinent information that might help folks become more knowledgeable and able to comment when the opportunity arises. I don’t know when that will be, but have asked the City Clerk, Mary Gourley, to keep me informed.

Here is some information that might be good to now:
 The Feb homeless count found 312 homeless people in the West County, including Guerneville; 101 of those were in Sebastopol. The annual number has varied from about 30 up to this number over the past decade. They range in age from young children and transitional aged youth, up through seniors.

Sebastopol has a number of organizations that provide support and services to homeless people, mostly the local churches which provide some meals, clothing and supplies, referrals, and in two cases, showers.

West County Community Services provides 8 mobile units (soon to be 10). This is permanent supportive housing with an on-site manager and about 1.2 FTE case managers, One is full time at Park Village, the fractional times provide outreach and referral services, and children services at PV. This program has had number of clients who have found the support there to move into their own independent apartments, get the medical care necessary to become more fully functioning, and to find modest employment.

In future comments to the City of Sebastopol Council, I will be emphasizing the following. Please feel free to use these points and to contact me to learn more about any of it.
There is a significant housing and Social services need in SoCo and West County, and
The fact that when people are housed, they are supervised so they are not as potentially problematic as when they are living rough,
That there will be on-site management in the proposed Sebastopol Inn housing,
That some of the more vulnerable and difficult formerly homeless Sebastopol and wider West County residents are no longer living homeless because of programs like the one proposed for the Sebastopol Inn,
The clients will be able to receive the services and referrals they want to help move into independent housing, and to be able to move into the mainstream,
West County Community Services has a continuum of housing and social services to offer, including independent housing throughout the Rapid Re-Housing Program. West County Health Centers are also proactive in helping these clients, and
There are examples of significant client successes from both Park Village and other housing and Supportive Service programs offered by West County non-profits.
We never know a large portion of the people who are homeless in our community because they don’t want to bring any attention to themselves. When they obtain housing and needed services, they generally are at home, not out pan-handling or causing difficulties.

There will be more public hearings available following the two that have been held by the County and the City to date. I will work to keep you updated.

I suspect that ch 7 news will feature a short piece on the proposal in the news tonight, as several folks were interviewed by one of their reporters today.

Yours for more housing and supportive services,
Gale Brownell

Wednesday, July 22, 2020




Racism is a serious charge to make and I don’t make it casually. It is useful therefore to distinguish between the intent of an act and its effects, which can be quite different.


Like the tone-deaf statement uttered by the now resigned Director of the Business Alliance “All Lives Matter,” (his answer to “Black Lives Matter”) it’s obvious that white privilege shields incurious minds to blindness concerning our own implicit racism. It’s doubtful that any of the Sonoma Supervisors or Council members, or members of The Business Alliance, see themselves as racists.


The Business Alliance is a venerable institution made up of builders, labor unions, wealthy individuals, small and large business owners whose corporate goal is to lobby, share concerns and provide campaign financing to local elective races. All the present Supervisors in the recent March 2020 races received substantial cash contributions to their campaigns from the Business Alliance, and this is an old story. Several of these Supervisors are also members of The Business Alliance and apparently see no conflict in this. The question one might ask but is rarely raised in media is this: What does The Business Alliance want from the Supervisors? If there is no stated quid pro quo between the two, is there some kind of implicit understanding about how policy & practice should work? The answer: what the Business Alliance wants from the supervisors is access to, and careful consideration of, any and all county policies and practices that will directly benefit its members.


Two pointed objectives of The Business Alliance are: (1) To influence government decisions affecting the economy, and (2) initiating and supporting actions to reduce non-essential government spending. If we choose one issue, housing, we see where a combination of deliberate, and deliberately omitted, government decisions over a lengthy time, -- in and of themselves rational policy choices, -- conclude in an array of effects that are clearly racist.


One example: since the Tubbs fire in October, 2017, 93% of all the building permits allowed throughout Sonoma have been for houses that only 20% of the population can afford. Contrarily, there is virtually no substantial housing startups for the middle or working classes, and very little adequate, affordable rentals for low-income people at all (average rental cost for an 800 sq.ft., one bedroom apartment in Sonoma is $1900/mo). It is not a coincidence that such a de facto housing policy greatly benefits the members of the Business Alliance. Upscale home builders can make big profits on houses costing over a million dollars; realtors’ associations make substantially more commissions selling expensive houses than they would from rental commissions; craft union members make substantially more rebuilding Fountaingrove houses than building downtown apartments.


None of these members of the Business Alliance would think of themselves as racists, yet the effects of this understanding between the Business Alliance and their friendly Supervisors virtually shuts out a huge segment of Sonoma from adequate, affordable housing, disproportionately affecting the lives and hopes of the poor, especially people of color.


The song, “I only have eyes for you,” aptly describes the view of the Supervisors and members of the Business Alliance: they simply do not see or much care about the needs of half their constituents. As public policy, the supervisors’ treatment of the homeless is especially instructive: perceived as nothing more than a nuisance, objects of forced clearances by police, the homeless are a home-grown moral scandal that is apparently not part of any discussions between the Business Alliance and Supervisors concerning the future well-being of Sonoma and all its citizens.


If Congress does not adequately address the imminent termination of the eviction pause (end of July) we will see thousands of low-income people evicted from their apartments. By practice and inclination, the Supervisors and Business Alliance will have no ready response to this calamity. Is Sonoma County the redoubt of the privileged few, working away at exploiting their advantage, their clubby access to elected officials, while the county regresses to something like Caracas, the walled-off rich barely noticing the riff-raff struggling below to hang on?


Resigning over a block-headed statement is easy. Leading on housing and other issues of vital importance to the majority of our citizens requires clear-headed and brave leadership willing to enact policies that address the needs of all citizens. Where is it?

Terry Rowan

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Kuango Seilah's "I Don't Care If You Believe Me"


I Don’t Care If You Believe Me © Kuango Seilah

Introduction: To many people still suffering unnecessary pain
Falsely accused of having a victim mentality 
Forced to endure unnecessary pain. 
Falsely accused of self victimization forced to endure humiliation.
We need equal rights for everyone and relief for those who still suffer unnecessary pain.

Verse: And I really don’t care if you believe me, I don’t care bout that no more.
Because I know all the pain and suffering in the world, 
you don’t wanna help end it. 
Along life's way you closed that caring door. 
Sold yourself up the river down the river long ago,
for all you could get paid.
I don’t wanta stand in judgement of you though.
I don’t want that to be my place. 

Chorus: Because  I,  I’m  nobody's hero their shero
and because I, I don’t wanna be self-righteous. 
What I want, what I want, equal rights for everyone
and relief for those who still suffer,
so much pain and bad thangs.

Verse: And I really don’t  care, if you believe that,
I don’t care bout that no more.
I know you justified oppression that went on for centuries, 
you said it was just about the money that could be made,
from the business of servitude and slavery, 
I don’t want to stand in judgement of you though. 
I know people will fight for their rights always,
that’s the decision that I made.

Chrous: Because I,  I’m somebody’s shero, their hero.
And because I, I don’t wanta be self-righteous. 
What I want, what I want is equal rights for everyone 
and relief for all those who still suffer so much pain,
they need real good thangs.

Ending Chorus: I don’t care if you believe me
I don’t care about that no more repeat many Xs

"I Don't Care If You Believe Me" on YouTube

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Forced Removal of Undesirables: A Long and Terrible History In America


By 1900, a little over 237,000 Indians were alive in the United States out of an estimated 12-15 million from over 300 native nations that existed in North America in 1492. This huge loss of life was a result of formal and informal government policy along with settler behavior towards Indians that included outright, planned murder, destruction of primary food resources, famine, malnutrition, enslavement, incessant forced removals, and constant social stress, which desperately weakened bodies and enabled pathogens to thrive.


Thomas Jefferson urged “. . . their extermination, or their removal beyond the lakes or Illinois River.”  Benjamin Franklin mused in his autobiography, “ . . . and indeed, if it be the design of Providence to extirpate these savages in order to make room for cultivators of the earth, it seems not improbable that rum may be the appointed means.”


When Washington, “the Father of our country” died, his 200 slaved were working on his farm in Virginia. Jefferson owned 600 salves through his lifetime. When Jefferson wrote “All men are created equal,” he did not intend to include women, Indians, black people, or white men without property in that “equality.”


The history of US racism, murder, and forced removals of undesirables is long and bloody.


In the modern era, homeless people are considered by many otherwise well-meaning elected officials and homeowners to be among the “undesirables.” This latter understanding, operationally an extension of ancient historical attitudes, is based on the idea that property-less people are akin to stateless persons, and since ownership of property was baked in at the onset of the nation as the lynchpin portal to all other rights, a property-less individual does not share in those “inalienable” rights of assembly, free speech and due process.



Thus, tomorrow, June 24, 2020, the Santa Rosa City Council will once again order the forced removal of a number of homeless individuals to re-scatter them, accomplished as always within the laws and so-called protections passed as sops to soften the truth of what they are really doing. As with Indians and blacks, the intention is to eliminate a social problem by ignoring the facts that produce these conditions: inadequate and unaffordable housing for thousands, little or no health care for thousands, and loss of employment as a function of a cruelly-structured economy.


The council members may wish to see themselves as revered like our Founding Fathers have been. They might not wish so if they took a closer look at those Founding Fathers, or their own actions that repeat our terrible crimes against “undesirables.”


It appears that the murder of George Floyd and the resulting demonstrations throughout the country may be causing some whites to try to understand their role in perpetuating racism baked into their white privilege that exacerbates the continued suffering of blacks from those unconscious attitudes. Likewise, we as a people have never come to terms with our bloody history of genocide against both Indians and blacks. And likewise, consciousness regarding what elected officials are doing to those without homes in our names is a shameful continuation in other clothes of these ancient behaviors: Instead of fixing human suffering through direct action, let’s just disperse them.”


Our collective behavior towards modern undesirables constitutes nothing less than crimes against humanity. Tomorrow, during these crimes, we must be there, and chant

our chant: “Forced removals are crimes against humanity.” We must pass flyers to police that read: “Your participation in forcefully removing unhoused persons is a crime against humanity. This is being recorded for history and legal claims that will be entered in the Office for Civil Rights and the World Court. As a matter of conscience, stop this crime.”


Terry Rowan

All quotes used above come from an article in the New York Review of Books entitled

“The Intent Was Genocide” by Peter Nabokov, pp.51-52

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Seizing the Opportunity of Addressing both Homelessness and Racism

The National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) and the National Innovation Center (NIC) are leading the effort to direct Federal Emergency Shelter Grant funding into effective program actions which local decision-makers should hear and be guided by.

Friday, April 24, 2020

News from the Sonoma County Homeless Task Force

Here are the notes from our COVID-19 Provider Meeting on 4/23 at 4pm.

_NCS Outreach/Referral Updates_

·Homeless Task Force now has the info needed to finalize the NCS referral process.  We are working hard to get these protocol documents to you ASAP.__

Proceeding with original plan to have regions work together to refer their most vulnerable individuals with the FQHCs collecting these referrals and sending them to the Intake Coordination team (PHNs on the Homeless Task Force)__

·First batch of referrals has been identified by IMDT and HTF and will move in next week__

_SSU NCS Updates_

·The dorm complex for NCS (Verdot Village) will have about 140 rooms

oUnable to utilize the larger dorm complex due to air circulation requirements

oThe rooms have capacity for more than 1 person but we are not requiring individuals to share space with people they don’t know.  If several people want to stay together, we have the capacity for this

·Temp and symptoms check will be conducted multiple times for all guests prior to entering NCS site

oNo testing prior to entry unless individual displays symptoms

·RESTRICTIONS ON LEAVING CAMPUS – Guests will only be able to leave campus for walks, smoke breaks, purchasing personal items at the store, work, or medical appointments

oThere will be time limits on how long they can be gone for certain activities.

·No smoking anywhere on campus

·Guests’ belongings will be searched during intake and each time they return to the site

·No alcohol, illegal drugs, or cannabis is allowed on site

·Belongings will be limited to 2 totes and 1 personal bag

·Bikes _are_ allowed – one per person, must be operable and stored in room

·Parking will be available for guests with vehicles – must be operable

·Security on site 24/7, service provider on site 7 days/wk during the day

·No pets

·Guests will need to clean their own living spaces (rooms will be cleaned prior to their arrival)


·Significant concern expressed by service providers regarding their ability to provide transport for all approved NCS referrals.  Request to work in partnership with County on this.

oJenna to bring these concerns back to the HTF team


Emily Quig

DOC Homeless Task Force


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Homeless in a time of COVID-19

Homeless in a time of Covid19

My friends,  one of my Shelter in Place (SIP) tasks has been to compile a chronology of homeless services in Sonoma County.  If any of you have highlights from the period of 1987 through 2009 please provide them (we have great detail after that).  For example, there were a series of Homeless conferences in the 1980 & 90s; what were the titles and dates?  Grace and Adrienne and I are doing a draft then we'll share it for editing.  We are looking at events, reports and initiatives over time.  Scanned original documents would also be welcomed but not required.

The other thing I contemplate  is our efforts to know what is going on right now.  The clearance of the Joe Rodota Trail was difficult.  The Los Guillicos situation is fraught now that there is Shelter in Place.  The time it takes to set up SSU and hotels and the trailers are all factors people with no home we are living through as I write this.

The County emergency web site proposes use of hotel rooms and shelter changes.
"Priority for placement in alternative locations, such as motels/hotels, will be given to people who are 65 years or older, medically compromised, pregnant, and who are ill and being tested for COVID-19."

It is unclear who is responsible for assuring that people who desperately need this priority placement will get it (who should we call to suggest names?). Initially, based on the weekly provider meetings CDC is conducting, the process involves Whole Person Care, The HEART team, The Inter-Disciplinary Multi-Agency Team, and the homeless team at the Emergency Operations Center.  They identify people who meet the FEMA criteria with some guidance from the Coordinated Entry list.

We have to understand that the shelters are first priority so that the residents there can begin to observe social distancing.  A relatively small number of homeless people from Sam Jones are already at the Sandman Motel.  We know that approximately 30 porta-potties and hand washing stations were placed in various areas of the county.  There is food distribution as well, especially by private individuals, Sonoma Applied Village Services (SAVS), Sonoma Food Runners and Sonoma Acts of Kindness.

We are greatly concerned about those who are not currently being considered for any other services. The encampments are growing as people seek the comfort of friends and minimal sanitation.  This is understandable.  It is not safe to have this kind of group living.  It is also not safe to disperse
these camps (according to the official CDC guidelines).  Anecdotal information tells us that law enforcement knows where the camps are and are, in fact, telling some people where some safe places are to park at this time.   Between 2,000-2,500 unsheltered homeless people in Sonoma County are at risk of contracting the coronavirus.  These are people who need immediate services and support.

It was left to the providers and advocates to announce the porta potty placements.   The HOME Sonoma Leadership Council is not making frequent ongoing status reports.  Maybe the April 23rd meeting will produce this; but I posit that the once a month meeting is not as useful  as we determine the best responses each day. The CDC staff who support HOME Sonoma providers are still overseeing the funding, and they provide  retrospective numeric information.  A practical challenge is to provide "real time" information in a way that does not add to their work burden.  In the same vein, the Homeless Action! notes contain many good ideas on what is needed to help people now and what data we need to share that would help promote success in the future.

The whole community: the county , service providers and the general public should share what is being done or planned?   Although overwhelmed with work, could the Home Sonoma staff take their notes from the provider meetings and share their efforts on the County Emergency services page as linked above?  Sharing of information through such transparency will promote effective responses.

Anyone who cares is asking, "How can we protect our unsheltered homeless sisters and brothers as this pandemic continues?"

--Gerry La Londe-Berg