Friday, April 30, 2021
Sunday, April 25, 2021
If there is a single email that has the most impact on directing government, it's the one. expressing your views on how they ought to spend our money in the year beginning July 1st. Both Sonoma County and the City of Santa Rosa are asking for your advice in the next two weeks.
Coming before these boards this week and next, each department head will be explaining how they think their budget should be spent. Rarely does anyone from the public suggest additions or changes. Seldom is there any money that is flexible enough for supervisors or councilpersons to exercise discretion.
But this year is different. This year, PG&E fire settlements, federal rescue funds, and state economic stimulus money make up one-third of the expected revenue during the next year. If there were ever a time when our representatives had money to spare on big important projects, this is it.
So it is the time for you to tell them what you want.
Here are the contact links to let them know what you think they should do.
Thursday, April 1, 2021
Three quarters of the unhoused on the street, and in our shelters, are in need of mental health and addiction services. Housing First (HF) forbids us from requiring such treatment as a condition of being housed. HF was adopted because the homeless complained they were being kept out of shelters arbitrarily. Then, we adopted Coordinated Entry (CE), intended to make sure the most vulnerable gained access first.
Now, we're scrapping CE. closing the doors on the most difficult applicants. So now, those who are accepted are easier to serve, and they have no incentive to accept services if they were available. It's a plan for spending less on needed mental health and addiction services, and a betrayal of the desire to reclaim our public areas for those not needing a place to sleep.
The result is that we are exactly where we were when Reagan closed the state mental hospitals, except that we've hand-cuffed ourselves from doing what the agencies did who appeared when the hospitals closed. They had no HF restrictions, and provided required case management in treatment services.
It's worse than "One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest." We've given up on the problems which led to the funding the residents and public demanded, and have turned our homeless facilities and services into nothing more than distanced beds for recently-homeless waiting to compete for a diminishing number of affordable apartments.
The CoC has to recognize that, while needed for a vibrant city, affordable permanent housing development will never solve the problems of homeless. It's too expensive, takes too long to build, and is serving the wrong population. They must direct that these funds be used to open the doors for permanent supportive housing for chronic and vulnerable homeless, and for the services needed by those clients to become capable of transitioning into permanent housing. Release these programs from HF restrictions on requiring participation in mental health and addiction services, and provide for these services in all supportive permanent housing.
And then, go partner with the Mental Health Advisory Board to coordinate the use of their new tax money to support mental health and addiction funds to bring the Care into your System.
And join my friend, Paul Webster, in the Hope Street Coalition. Watch the video on Take Back Oceanside. He's a brilliant mind, and a good Pied Piper willing to spread the word on where we're going wrong.
Saturday, December 12, 2020
The Sebastopol City Council is having its regular and Special meeting next Tuesday December 15, at 6 p.m. for regular city business and special discussion of the purchase of the Sebastopol Inn by the County for homeless/elderly/covid-related housing. The purchase itself appears to be a done deal; what remains to be determined are plans for operations and administration, and selection of residents. This proposal has generated much controversy, including those who are strongly in favor of any effort to reduce homelessness; and others who are concerned about the loss of hotel tax revenues, the impact on local businesses and the city generally, questions about ongoing management of the site, and the degree to which the needs of Sebastopol and West County homeless will be addressed.
It appears that eligibility for housing at the Inn will be based upon assessments of elder age, general health problems, and covid vulnerabilities. Early allotments may be given to those who are already being housed elsewhere (Santa Rosa) to transition them to a more stable location in the Sebastopol Inn. Federal/State/County requirements indicate that the most vulnerable get preference, no matter where they currently live, and local persons may obtain placement to the extent they may place at the top of each vulnerability ranking. *Sebastopol homeless persons with the stated vulnerabilities can begin the placement process by screening through West County Community Health, at 652 Petaluma Avenue near Palm Avenue, opposite the former Palm Drive Hospital, **to register in the "Coordinated Entry Program."* That will allow them to be assessed for their vulnerabilities and provide information that can be used to evaluate them along with people from other areas and perhaps gain ranking because they have conditions that make them more or at least equally vulnerable and thus gain housing at the Inn.
I encourage our members to observe/participate in the Zoom City Council meeting. I would suggest that our tone should be to seek information and not to inflame, around this sensitive subject in which many important questions have been raised. Defiant positions may only cause positions to harden among decision-makers. Certainly our members are free to express their views further in writing to members of the city council, Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, and Barbie Robinson, director of the county Health Services Department and Community Development Commission. Contact information is easily available online.
Agenda and Zoom access information for the December 15 meeting is provided here:
Other highlighted Zoom access information is here:
*The following rather long (46 pages) but easily-read document summarizes plans and positions.* Note specifically the summary prepared by the City at pages 42-46. Also note the graphics provided by the activist organization SonomaCountyHomeless.com at pages 26-27 questioning the expenditure for the Sebastopol Inn, and suggesting other alternatives that may address a greater number of homeless persons. Also note the concerns of the owners of The Barlow, the commercial development across the street from the Sebastopol Inn, at pages 29-31. Other documents within this 46-page packet are more supportive of the project.
This article in the Sonoma West News and Times explains in its later paragraphs that eligibility and ranking process, for those who are already being housed elsewhere, to transition them to a more stable location in the Sebastopol Inn.
*Here is the County's information page about Project Homekey* which is proposed to establish housing at the Hotel Azura in Santa Rosa and the Sebastopol Inn.
*Thank you for your continuing interest and attention to issues of homelessness in Sebastopol. Generally, the situation here remains stable.* Beyond the Sebastopol Inn, "Tiny Homes," or other housing alternatives, remain projects for future examination and work. "Safe Parking" and toileting/sanitation have been accomplishments.
Sebastopol Christian Church, Sebastopol Methodist Church, Sebastopol Community Church, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, and Enmanji Buddhist Temple continue to provide "Saturday Tables" rotating each week of the month between them with hot lunches to go at noon. The Portico Italian market and pasta shop at 110 North Main Street is generously partnering with Sebastopol Methodist for its Saturday Table spaghetti lunch.
Laundry vouchers remain available through Sunrise Rotary and Sebastopol Methodist Mission Team as administered by Malcolm Andrews in conjunction with Jim Glomb of Rotary. In most cases Sonoma County Transit buses are fare-free, certainly in local shuttles. Medical assistance is available through West County Community Health at 652 Petaluma Avenue near Palm Avenue, opposite the former Palm Drive Hospital. Sebastopol Christian Church Barnabas Program continues to provide hot breakfasts, showers, and bag lunches on Mondays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., serving up to 30 persons a day, and bag lunches on request and subject to availability throughout the week, with assistance from Community Church. The Food Pantry on the grounds of St. Stephen's provides bagged dry food, milk, canned soups, sauces, beans, hot dogs, milk, eggs, M,W,F, Sa from 10 a.m. to noon, has an abundance of food available, and encourages enhanced utilization. An outreach was conducted to Morris Street vehicle campers to inform them of the Food Pantry. Sebastopol Center for the Arts offers a "distance learning" site for school children.
Safe parking remains on Morris Street and on most city streets that do not have posted restricted-hourly limits, and to a limited basis at Sebastopol Community Church. The City continues to provide handwashing stations on the plaza, Morris Street, and near the Hopmonk, and portable toilets on Morris Street. Unfortunately, three Sebastopol homeless persons have died in recent months, two believed drug-related, one from a shooting allegedly to have followed a dispute, but the core downtown homeless community to date has remained covid-free, and all these services have contributed to this stabilization. Best wishes to all in this December season.
Chair, West County Homeless Advocates
Monday, October 12, 2020
Sonoma County received notice this morning of an $11 million award from the State of California to purchase the Azure Hotel for permanent supportive housing for Covid-19 at-risk homeless, previously housed at non-congregate shelters. A portion of $650 million distributed over the past four weeks, it is intended to secure the housing by December 31st.
Friday, August 7, 2020
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,
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
HOW RACISM OF SUPERVISORS AND THE BUSINESS ALLIANCE WORKS
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?