Thursday, September 13, 2018

Martin vs Boise

What About the Trash?

What About the Trash?
By Scott Wagner

“I think we need to stop making excuses for them and encourage them to clean up after themselves, not do it for them.  Nobody has a right to litter.”

Yeeps that's a tough sentence for me. But even so, I haven't got a big complaint about it being said, per se. Like a lot of coarse, broad swipes at reality, there's something in there of use– but the implications and confusions they cause are also important. One thing that we do a lot in these discussions is smoosh together statistical and individual shoulds and is-es into a kind of fuzzy, frothy soup of ideas– then we can argue about what the soup is, using broad brushes and big language. This is a noted problem in philosophy called the is-ought problem, but with this stuff, that's combined with an undifferentiated relationship between statistical and individual reality.

Here's a few observations from the current encampment I visit that use this is-ought problem and our unconscious mashup of statistical and individual portraits.

1. Some individual unsheltered or RV people "should" be cleaner, in the personal responsibility sense of caring for their own health, neighbor relations and political optics that can boomerang on them individually. If they did become cleaner, they would be happier and make others happier. The statement “stop making excuses for them” seems to be saying that we should do what I do occasionally, when I go by and say, 'would y'all please clean up around your RV?' One can encourage individuals to be cleaner, and sometimes we should - sometimes we REELLY should. Are they responsible for their mess, in some ways? Sure. Can we ask them to help out with their own mess?  Sure. Is it a good thing to do sometimes, or with certain people, or at certain times?  Sure.

2. Is it a good thing to do all the time? Hell no. Even a lot of the time? I personally don't think so. Some individuals can't clean up after themselves; some won't clean up after themselves, but can sometimes be encouraged and helped along enough via example and cheery good neighborliness to take much more care with their trash eventually; some don't care much about the mess, and it won't get cleaned unless a volunteer does it, which might beautify the streets in an important way, like I was trying to do last Saturday on a sensitive spot. Some people come into the area and dump trash that isn't related to or isn't much related to the residents, and it's hard to teach those guys personal responsibility by watching those piles grow.

None of those various types of situations and homeless individuals are benefited best through the 'let's not do it for them' approach. Any simple rule like 'let's not do it for them' at the very least has important exceptions --- I will also say that volunteers picking up a lot of trash is appreciated a great deal, and that, for most, our example as volunteers tends to be followed, not depended on more. The overall emphasis on personal responsibility is an easy shibboleth with meaningful gaps in usefulness, and is often used to justify cruelty and withholding simple charity, like cleaning up a big mess you can clean up easily. That's one reason why some of us react to personal responsibility arguments poorly.  Even if it's great here and there, in its place, in the right dosages, it's an especially-often bullshit overall philosophy in a trauma-soaked population. Individually, seemingly easy or normal-seeming tasks can be gargantuan or impossible for the damaged. We shouldn't toss around our shoulds as enthusiastically as we do, and should think more about how "what is" dictates what happens.

3. The encampments where volunteers are working are getting cleaner and cleaner now, mostly through the efforts of the residents. We occasionally provide simple assistance and simple examples. That often feels supportive and right to me.  Many residents help clean the trash when we bring a truck and bags.  A LOT of personal responsibility happens in these villages, some of it through what we do to "do it for them." The dictum of “don’t do it for them” is of use for a relatively small percentage of homeless individuals, with a kind of opposite "do it for them" and "let them make messes without comment" at least as appropriate many times.

4. The unsheltered as a group (statistically) are messier than most, but that's because, as others have said, they have a harder time staying clean because of societal abuses. I think we absolutely should "make excuses", regularly and often, especially with officials. When NYC has a garage strike and after four days the curbs and streets are piled high with garbage of every sort, do people point at New Yorkers and say, "Oh what slobs you are; why don't you take care of the place?” Of course not, we understand the problem.

5. We don't have to decide which of these countervailing truths are "the most important" right now, the one we must emphasize all the time. There's no conflict when we think we should ask someone to clean up their mess, and when we cut them as a population slack, or they cut themselves slack.

6. The unsheltered have a double-digit percentage of them who need mild-to-major counseling about hoarding. This may be higher than in the housed population but that is not certain.  With hoarders, “don’t do it for them” is extremely problematic. People equate hoarded goods and trash, when these items come about in two nearly separate ways, with two entirely separate cures. These people have to be treated clinically, and village life has to accommodate their presence, probably in uncomfortable compromises. Again, simple dictums are sometimes useful, sometimes problematic.

7. "Nobody has a right to litter" is another kinda-sorta truism. Sure, it's always illegal to litter - but many such "shoulds" have to disappear when you don't have trash service. Shoulds are harder to suss out clearly when no one is helping, one pile is the same as another (and piles is all you get to do), there’s no regular garbage pick up, and when you're traumatized, trained out of the habit of cleanliness, stressed, distracted, and otherwise fucked. Also, when society treats an entire group of people as pariahs, some of those people will not care much about the greater good of society.  Again, we hope for greater individual personal responsibility. These two ideas can co-exist; I think they must, with a natural tension between them respected.

8. I think any such broad-brush contention would better serve with these kinds of offsets and healthy contrasts mentioned at the same time, or at least alluded to.

9. The city has a 'live in your own filth, you pigs' sanitation policy which we oppose at every opportunity.  But if we set that aside, we might be surprised how hard it is for damaged, weak, and/or hounded people to buy and keep trash bags, or get their septic tank to stop leaking, or find trash receptacles, or keep dogs out of trash, or keep neighbor's trash under control, or avoid having drunk friends and neighbors add to piles. These are not trivial exceptions to the urge to "stop making excuses for them...[don't] do it for them." We don't get to choose to ignore these deep offsets to any call for personal responsibility. We get to take both perspectives as appropriate, and weigh out sensibly in the moment when one is important, or when the other is not.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Sonoma Affordable Housing For All Expo


On Sunday, October 14th, low-cost affordable housing advocates, city and county staff, and members of the public with questions will the ___________________________.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Moving into Homeless Housing

The recent interest and funding to build homeless housing with supportive services has resulted in many questioning what the most effective building and service partnerships which should be formed.  I’d like to share what I believe.
Long ago, when community groups providing supportive services reached out to housing developers to house our clients, we helped each other gain new skills.  Service agencies learned about housing development, and housing developers learned about needs beyond a place to live.  The partnerships strengthened each, and a significant number of our homeless community were helped into stability and housing.  Those fleeing domestic violence, being flushed out of state mental hospitals, and struggling with addictions received new hope. 
But while the joint development of housing was certainly a bold and successful addition to our community’s assets, it was the recognition that forming a supportive community of those sharing the journey that made the lasting impact.  Remembering that most of those being targeted had only limited experience alone on the streets, our solutions were focused on fulfilling their desire to transition to traditional family housing lifestyles.  Even so, success was greatly dependent on how effectively we helped build a new intentional supportive community around them.
In the interim, those left behind in our efforts have built communities of their own anywhere they could.  Our unwillingness to push beyond the socially acceptable homeless has not deterred those out early and pushed out consistently from turning their anger and resourcefulness into survival strategies.  The failures of our society to deliver the basic components of upward mobility to most of our citizens has soured many of them on whether it will ever be so.
In the work we will face over the next two months to create a county response to the millions of dollars being offered by the state for homeless supportive housing, we need to talk about what the housing and supportive services which are needed by the long-term, un-housed homeless.  Experienced in living in shelters, vacant houses, buildings, tents, sleeping bags, and shadows – we need to work with them to learn what they need to build stability and a willingness to reach out to us.
We need to also recognize that this new group of long-term homeless may only be able to transition if the route is through small communities that give each other support.  Many of those small communities have been cobbled together using less thsn traditional housing models, and the supportive services provided to each other are not available through existing housing designs.

Those of us who aspire to bring about new resources which meet the needs that are defined need to commit strongly to work together.  We need to re-imagine both what supportive services and homeless housing are, and our roles in bringing it about.  I am dedicated to bringing an open mind to that work, and I invite others to join with me in doing so.

Gregory Fearon
2040 Elizabeth Way
707 230-1198

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Hi Everyone,

Three Requests
1)  Bruce Pearson is going to canvass Mercury Way at some point tomorrow.  If you have a few hours, it would be great for him to have a partner.  Also, some of those who got our notice who will come looking for a way to return the completed form or pick up blank ones.  Call me 795-2890.

2)  Consider becoming a "Buddy" with one person next week, to help them get their home/vehicle smog-ed, registered (and repaired if necessary).  Call me 795-2890.

3)  If you can help get a vehicle where Sara was living out of the tow truck lot, email Michael immediately at

As many of you know, on Monday morning we got word that the police were in the R.V. area off Corporate Center Parkway with tow trucks.  Homeless Action! people put a sign on the door of our usual Monday meeting and joined the CAC people who'd come out to help.  They towed a van, Sara's PT Cruiser and one other vehicle.  Albert B. was woken up by a cop who said his van would be towed as soon as the tow truck arrived.  He had less than 40 minutes to gather his things by the side of the road.

Gregory, Gail, Bruce, Michael T., Victoria, Eileen, Colleen, Thomas, Anita, Adrian S. and I supported people, did legal observing and whatever else we could do to help.  Kathleen called the Press Democrat repeatedly until she reached a reporter.   We gave Albert support all the way to making up his bed at Sam Jones -- getting some of his property back along the way.  We also continued work on a survey of those who are living there.   Someone made a video.  Would you please "reply all" to this email and send us a link?

Michael is trying to raise money toward getting Sara's PT Cruiser out of the tow truck lot.  It costs $200 plus $55 per day that it is in the tow yard. So we are looking at about $365 if we can get it out on Wednesday. So far we only have $165.  If you can help, email Michael immediately at

Many people have left the area.

Gregory, Julie Combs, Jack Tibbetts and Jennielynn Holmes all talked to "People Who Decide" about leaving the residents alone as long as they are working with us on their registration and/or working with the HOST people through Coordinated Entry.

The Press Democrat did a front page story on Tuesday morning:

On Monday afternoon, we knew that we will have a donor for $15,000 toward registering and getting many of vehicles up and running.  That was very energizing.  We particularly want to save the R.V.'s and Trailers which make a home for many of these folks.

We began offering a Request for Funding form.  So far, 25 people have filled out the Request Forms. It's likely we'll have more than 30 by the end of the week.   We are going up and down the streets, usually in pairs, and talking to people one by one, and filling out the forms.  We've done all the streets but one.

No one was towed today.

We've begun putting the attached sign on special orange paper on the vehicles who have filled out their Request for Funding forms and are working with us on their registration.  But, we have no agreement from the SRPD that they will honor this sign.

There's a meeting on Thursday at 2 pm among "People Who Decide" about what do to.  Capt. Craig Schwartz is in charge of the police actions.

This is why I asked you to  "Buddy Up" with one person to help them get their home/vehicle smog-ed and registered (and repaired if necessary)  If each of us takes one person, we can do this smoothly and quickly, with joy and happiness for all.

TOMORROW (Wednesday)
There are a lot of stories and much hardship.  I'd like to tell you about some of the people I talked with today but I think it's better to protect their privacy.  Any of you who have done interviews at any of the camps know how your heart both opens and breaks as you talk with people.

I'm taking a day off from the camp tomorrow, so I can straighten out the paperwork and get it all in order.  You can catch me at home until about 1 pm.  795-2890


Monday, August 13, 2018

Fighting Toxic Homelessness Statistics and Reporting

The article tone illustrates the inanity of leaning enthusiastically into the one homelessness statistic that is looked at by far the most by government. We have no clue from that number, or from anything the article says or shows in its cool graphs, whether these Seattle shelter and village programs are saintly or destructive.

1. Our homelessness programs aren't primarily rated on customer satisfaction, or stability provided (however we define giving shelter, safety, consistency, physical health, or access to services.) No service outcomes hit the top evaluative indicators. Not even key metrics on housing preparedness, or job or drug or credit or child reunion success, or mental health.

Set aside the difficulty of gathering good metrics a moment, an understandable and constant problem in human services. Stats of people "exiting" to "permanent housing" are gamed. The games are rarely discussed, because they are revealing, and most parties involved are motivated subtly by self-interest and inertia and politics to overlook various bits of bad or embarrassing throughput. So, instead of struggling with the family of statistics that we need to measure usefully the complex processes of qualifying for, finding, winning, and then keeping permanent housing, we gloss and dumb down and game it. 

One number, exits to permanent housing, rules all. Our friends are shoved in motels for three days, and then thrown out– but not before they can be counted as a success. People are thrown in shelters and then thrown out for statistical purposes. They visit their mom or their tribe for a week- cured permanently of homelessness!- and return to the street. People go into one-month programs, 6 month programs, 2 year programs, and are permanent successes, as they make marks on the wall, counting the days that remain. People hit the max time at their only option for shelter and get kicked out; they get kicked out of other programs, or they walk;; they get kicked out of supposedly "permanent" housing, out of villages, out of shelters. They fall off the statistical ends-of-the-earth, the Artist Formerly Known as a Success, sometimes because the system needs to foist a new someone as a success in their place. People "refuse" to accept housing, victims of tricks of procedure, or language, or labyrinthine skits that avoid reasonable accommodation of disabilities.

Think about those leaks in the system. We don't know what "exit to permanent housing" means. We know that permanent housing usually doesn't last long, but we don't know much about the averages, or the reasons for variation, or what to do about it. The sin isn't that we don't know those things– they are hard things to know. It's that we pretend we don't have to know, that we just need one number to judge success.
Let's move on to the arcane kingdom of "transition". The doublespeak conventions of Housing First force us to talk about transitional housing that can't transition to much more than the system leaks denoted above, because there's little to transition to. We stand around like we're in a gulag in Soviet Russia, practiced at mouthing lies, turning these simple statistical dumbdowns over and over in our hands, pretending together, cluck-clucking about how some transitional programs aren't getting people into permanent housing well. We do this because we literally have nothing else to talk about. All that matters is that one number. The pertinent information, about the pipelines and bottlenecks to housing, are hidden, obfuscated, or downplayed for political purposes.
Transitional small homes and communities are the only housing that can be rapidly developed, the only realistic hope for most of getting out of the cold and abuse until many years from now. Such homes can be as permanent and safe as any renter's lease, as well-built and long-lasting as our sense of charity allows. They can save lives and minds while we wait for an uncaring world to right itself. Yet villages are a foster child we keep manacled in a back room. We get funding, murmur about emergencies, then shun and dismiss villages as unworthy. The pogroms continue on the street, in twos and threes and tens.

As a team, let's please take the time to refute in our minds the points in the article, and get used to doing so, so we can clearly and cleanly name the distorted  mindset we are enduring. 

Here are the only 4 sentences of the article I could find that are of any use: 

"...[nonprofits are] protesting how “exits” are being calculated after a recent change in methodology. Their concern is that they are being penalized for people who spend nights in shelter whom they cannot immediately move into stable housing, or who decline offers of help [typically for good, albeit unintuitive, reasons] ...Even when shelter clients are mentally, physically and financially ready to move into housing, there often isn’t a place for them to go, Giovengo said. More than 8,300 households are on the county’s centralized intake list for homeless housing."

We can't let the kind of critical, gossipy, and simplistic dialogue of most of this article go on locally. So much propaganda and obfuscation is tolerated by everyone, feeding our officials' and the public's abuses. Pretending that the mission of the Continuum of Care is solely 1) build permanent housing, 2) 6 month human warehousing, and then 3) managing the emergency room expense fallout, is what has created this cynical merry-go-round of ours.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

SR Properties that HA! is reviewing for Homeless Housing Opportuities


This map contains information we have assembled on parcels of land that seem possible for housing developments.  By housing developments, we are suggesting the broadest possible range of habitations, as the parcel sizes and location vary.  There are three layers of sites now, and it is intended that the map be used for other useful information.  The City's Housing element is required to identify the parcels that the City believes can be developed for affordable housing, and we will include those sites for our monitoring.

Using the map, together with the City's Planning Department GIS system, it is possible to learn quite a lot about a property.  We will also be including our comments on each site to identify movement toward development.

There is a  need to identify, follow, and stimulate the use of land in our City to provide the range of housing which meets the needs of everyone.  Trying to create one map which could be used for the entire range of housing models (tents, tough sheds, tiny home villages, modular villages, as well as the range of more traditional housing for sale and ownership models - may prove difficult.  But we're going to go for it.  And it will only improve if you find the information valuable, and you help us keep if accurate and timely.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Day that Santa Rosa Retreated

Today might become known as the day that the Santa Rosa City Council retreated.  At its Special meeting held in the Legends Restaurant at the Bennett Valley Golf Course, the Council heard from its City Manager and staff that the unexpectedly large increases in its expenses, coupled with inadequate revenue, has created permanent losses to its reserve for as far as can be projected.  Unless corrected, the City will be out of money by 2020. 
In the face of this awful news, the Council gave their approval to beginning their budget development process for the 2019-2020 fiscal year over six months early.  By this September, it hopes to begin to determine what the City’s services will look like beginning in July of 2019.  
But the planning will actually begin next Tuesday.  At their weekly meeting, they are expected to decide whether to place on the November ballot three revenue enhancements: a 25% increase in the City’s sales tax to raise $9 million per year to fund City operations, a 3% increase in the City’s Transient Occupancy Tax to raise $1.5 million per year to fund City operations, and an increase in the City property tax to provide financial resources to produce new, and preserve existing, affordable housing for households earning between 0% - 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), and affordable homeownership opportunities for households earning between 80% - 120% of AMI.
The City Manager has asked the Council to meet the budget gap between revenue and expenses by closing the gap half way with cuts in expenses, and the remainder by increases in revenue.  It is expected that voters will expect a formula of that design.
But most will admit that a retreat in the level of public services is coming.  Where the $7 million in cuts will occur is anyone’s guess, and no specifics were forthcoming today.  A series of meetings held throughout the City in th next two months will help guide the Council and staff.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Lessons from Transitional Villages in Oregon and Washington

Lessons from Transitional Villages in Oregon and Washington

Scott Wagner spent 4 days in July, 2018, touring Dignity Village in Portland, and eight villages in the King County, Washington area that house about 500 people. The villages represent a broad spectrum of approaches to building and leveraging the power of community to create and maintain stability. All utilized either complete or a high degree of self-management.


-       Self-management works well if it is supported by strong, proven protocols, volunteers, and training. Most villages are led by a “Triad”, three rotating volunteers who typically manage security, outside interactions, and operations. Management is protective of and fiercely loyal to their villages; they are motivated by a deep appreciation of the value of community to clients. Villages have one or two paid staff, typically only one fulltime “case manager” targeting preparations and coordination of housing placement.

-       All villages maintain a 24 hour security watch, a single entry point, stopping and logging of all visitors, and a ‘ban list’, which helps enormously with safety issues. The security shack provides a consistent locus of community life and coordination. The constant presence of a watch helps maintain a culture of zero tolerance of violence and thievery.

-       Neighbors have a generally positive view of established villages. Mandated litter patrols, involvement in local affairs, and a tendency for villagers to work or be home (like most people) means a low and positive profile locally. Crime has decreased in most areas since village creation.

-       7 of the 9 villages visited were completely composed of insulated sheds, mostly of one design, costing about $2500 in materials. Most are funded through donation; all were constructed by volunteers and clients. All but the family units are designed to be moved by pallet jack; most arrived on a truck. They have very inexpensive built-in oil heating and electricity for lighting and charging, with solar power being implemented in stages. For some villages, infrastructure investment upfront was significant.  All villages have centralized bathroom, kitchens, and a community areas.  Most have overflow group tents for the winter to take in more of the unhoused during the night.

-       Villages are often successfully shut down or moved. Several shed villages have moved recently, with other moves planned. The oldest tent village in America (Tent Village 3, 18 years old) purposefully moves about every three months, typically adjusting the number and mix of their population each time. They do this to share the burden among sponsor organizations, to provide a wide variety of neighborhoods a positive experience of the unhoused (including litter removal in the broad area), and to keep the tent community used to the notion of minimal impact.

-       Villages are designed for different locales and emphasis, with loose focus on the aged, local people, the newly homeless, substance users, the disabled, etc. Stability and planning are enhanced when somewhat specific populations are grouped together. Villagers’ success in permanent housing placement varies in intuitive ways, depending on the population, the location, the availability of case management, and local housing funding.

-       Villages mandate about 10 hours a week in chores by all clients, and regular attendance at village meetings. Drugs and alcohol are not allowed, except in one “low barrier” village; abuse is managed by managing behavior. Most villages have problems that crop up due to drug use, but they do not dominate village life or ruin the culture they’ve developed.  

-       Villages generally cost about $300 per month per client, or $10 a day, with funding provided by a varied combination of government, grants, donation, and client rents. Costs are about 25% sewer/water/garbage, 40% staff and contract services, with the rest miscellaneous insurance, supplies, and vouchers. Tent City 3 (~100) and Dignity Village (~60) are self-funded through donations; the rest receive government support.

-        Overwhelmingly, clients prefer village life over shelter life. Client satisfaction matters greatly when trying to achieve stability and prepare for permanent housing. Because clients are in the coordinated entry system and trying to obtain permanent housing, no time limits are employed. Residents are provided equivalent access to services and permanent shelter as shelter residents, but at much less initial and ongoing cost to government, and at much higher levels of satisfaction.

Prepared for Homeless Action!  July 16, 2018 by Scott Wagner

Monday, July 9, 2018

Sonoma Region's Federal Funding Performance


These reports provide funding information for each city and state that receive CPD program funds, including Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Continuum of Care (CoC), Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), HOME, Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), and Housing Trust Fund (HTF).  In the reports, each entity’s use of funding for the FY2016 year can be examined.  Comparing selected entities, one can see how our local entities spent the funds by kind of expense, by percentage targeted to those making less than 50% of Adjusted Median Income, by how much funding they did not spend (and are at risk of having to return), how many units of rental and rehab and homeownership were built, and how many people were served, and tha number of service units delivered.

My review results in a few areas of note.  The percentage spent by Santa Rosa on Public Services and Admin (George Uberti pointed this out months ago) - far above the maximum percentages (15% and 20%) - has to be explained.  The high amount of Sonoma County recapture risk, and high relative marks for Petaluma are those figures which also should be noted.   

But this report doesn’t contain any serious criticism of Sonoma, Santa Rosa, or Petaluma.  That’s reserved for the second spreadsheet, released in April (  

Our region (CA-504) scores so low in all measures, and calls into question how California’s Housing and Community Development Department (or any other California department administering new homeless funding) would look upon our area as anything but completely lacking any real ability to assist homeless to permanent housing.  California will give huge weight to these criteria in its application reviews from California counties and cities.  I’m sure that our locals will respond by saying that we’re so burdened by high rents and a lack of available land to develop.  But we aren’t alone in those conditions, and this data does not paint a picture of a strong system of care, or one that has been able to successfully transition homeless from the street to permanent housing - when compared to other regions who will be competing with us for the same money we hope to receive.


Friday, June 29, 2018

Articles on Housing First-Funded Low Cost Housing


Lately, low cost housing pushing the limits of minimum housing standards have been funded by cities and counties under their Housing First programs.  Here are some articles on those initiatives.

Can Tuff Sheds help Oakland ease the housing crisis? - June 28th, 2018

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Homeless Housing Budget Proposal

Homeless Emergency
Budget Recommendations
2018-2019 City of Santa Rosa

Despite various attempts to help and some mild success, the homeless emergency continues to exist in Santa Rosa.  
·      We have a shortage of critical shelter beds.  Officially, more than half of our homeless residents (769) sleep outside every night and, county-wide, nearly 2/3rds have no shelter.
·      Five large encampments and countless small ones have been cleared without any appreciable improvement in the number of people housed or any lessoning of the suffering of Santa Rosa’s homeless people. 
·      Last winter’s emergency shelter at the Armory cared for approximately 90 people a night, but there is no winter shelter planned for Santa Rosa this year.

There is good news.  The national affordable housing shortage and continuing numbers of homeless individuals has brought attention and some additional money to bear.  California, in particular, is providing new money for the temporary, non-standard shelter we are advocating, and they are looking for creative solutions.  With the help of city staff and non-profit partners, we anticipate bringing some of that money to Santa Rosa in order to provide higher quality emergency “stability first” shelter for many of the 769 people currently left out in the cold.   In addition we recommend a variety of policy changes to address this emergency.

We propose targeting $1.8 million in funding for immediate emergency shelter needs, using a variety of new initiatives and funding sources. We recommend that $310,000 be allocated in the city budget for this purpose.  We’re looking to both the city and county to provide matching funds for these projects in the coming year.  With help from city and county staff members in an ongoing planning process, we can significantly augment your contribution with other sources, some of which are discussed below.

Financial Recommendations


Number Served
Approx. Cost
Year-round “security first” shelter either in surplus buildings or on vacant land

Year-round Safe Parking

Winter Shelter Oct-March

Housing First Facilitator

In addition, we support a budgetary set aside of approximately $1.2 million for one or more permanent supportive housing projects. 

Description:  With the creation of the new senior center on Steele Lane, most of the senior services at Bennett Valley are scheduled to end.  This building could be repurposed to provide single room occupancy housing for approximately 70 homeless seniors on the model of the Palms Inn.  Some of the current classes could continue in a remodeled facility and remain open to the neighborhood seniors.  This project should be able to access some of the state funding detailed below.  If this building cannot be used, this money will be available for other opportunities.

Policy Recommendations

·      Before the Winter Rain.  Use an expedited timeline to get the projects with the least infrastructure and construction sited and ready for use in the next three months.

·      Open Private Land.  Adopt new incentives for private property owners to partner with homeless housing developers to use empty sites for temporary and supported housing until construction begins.

·      Open The Process.   In awarding this money, even for the smaller project, use an RFP process in order to begin building capacity among our diverse homeless service provider community.

·      Open Public Land.  Identify and provide funding to prepare all surplus public property for the development of permanent, supported housing in a variety of housing designs and capacities. 

·      Getting In the System.  Ensure that all homeless facilities and services comply with Housing First entry guidelines, expanding the available short-term beds.

·      Getting Housed.  Hire a “Housing First” Facilitator who is available for both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people.   Oblige all future projects by housing developers that are partly funded by the city or required by inclusionary zoning to include a percentage of extremely low income housing.  Expand the Santa Rosa Housing Authority priority for housing homeless people.

·      Best Advice from Everyone.  Establish an ongoing advisory group to provide guidance to the City on homeless services and facilities, bringing together providers, city staff, homeless individuals, and the community.

Expanded Descriptions

These policy and financial suggestions support a continuum of solutions including independent and supportive shelters, transitional villages, single-room occupancy hotels, master-leased apartments, and newly-constructed and subsidized low income housing projects.

Year-round “security first” shelter either in buildings or on vacant land:
From long experience, service providers, Homeless Action!, and independent volunteers are well aware of the required essentials and costs of making these approaches work. Proposals will be grounded in a growing body of literature on best practices and successful projects.  Whether called transitional villages, safe spaces, sanctioned encampments or something else, these options utilize existing structures within the homeless community’s current camps.  They add enough support and oversight to bring safety to the residents and comfort to the neighborhood.  Security first villages work best with roughly 30 people per site.  To keep the costs reasonable, we recommend an individualized staffing plan for each site, depending on client mix and other factors.  This option combined with some winter shelter beds can eliminate much of the instability, illness, and death experienced by the Last Chance villagers. Volunteers can assist with initial challenges and support at all sites.

Year-round Safe Parking.  This cost, potentially administered from an expanded CHAP program, covers the sanitation and stipend for an on-site volunteer manager.  Homeless Action! has operated a successful Safe Parking site at McBride Avenue for over a year and we understand the necessary components.   The Bennett Valley Senior Center with its 60 person parking lot is an obvious potential site for some Safe Parking slots.  Other city-owned sites can be located.

Winter Shelter Oct-March.  The $100,000 expense is based on the work of St. Vincent De Paul at the Armory in 2016-2018.  The Armory is expensive, unavailable on weekends and people have to leave early in the dark, cold mornings.  We recommend a search for a better facility.

Housing First Facilitator.  One full-time job similar to the Housing Navigators currently hired by Catholic Charities.  This worker would work in the wider community.

State & Local Matching Money

These state monies are more likely to come to Santa Rosa if the city already has money available for shelter and/or housing projects.  Because of the state-wide housing shortage and homeless emergency, these state-wide funds are likely to be highly competitive.

1)  California’s 2018-2019 budget includes one-time money of $500 million to address homelessness.  Details have not been released yet.   To get a share of this funding Santa Rosa will need a developer who is ready, willing and able to pursue a viable project.  

2)  "No Place Like Home", funding for supportive housing for people affected by mental illnesses.  Likely to be available early next year, although a court case about the legality of diverting service money to housing is being deliberated.  We may also see a ballot measure on the November ballot to allow this.  The initiative specifically targets cheap, innovative solutions, including transitional villages.

3) If the State housing bond is successful in November, $1.5 billion will go into MHP  (Multifamily Housing Program).  There will be a priority and/or set aside for projects that include a supportive housing component.

4)  We will also see funding coming from the "permanent source" approved last year.  It is likely to provide about $400 million annually.   This is not specifically targeted for supportive housing or other homeless-designated housing, but it can be used for those purposes.

5)  Homeless Action! supports a Santa Rosa bond measure for the November ballot.  

6)  Any successful award from one or more of these sources, including any city funding, will increase the likelihood of a project receiving an allocation of tax credits, the largest subsidy for low income rental housing.