Friday, April 30, 2021

Bring California Home Act


Here is a link to the current bill text of the Bring California Home Act. (  

Almost a hundred organizations and individuals testified yesterday, and there was none from Sonoma County in the list of supporters.  I'm working on getting Chris Coursey and Chris Rogers to get the County and Santa Rosa to support it.  The Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce opposed it, probably because depends almost entirely on raising corporate taxes.  We need to get everyone behind this.  It’s ongoing $2 billion/year for operating funds for homeless programs.

Most of what happens in California is guided by what comes out of the Legislature.  So if there’s a crystal ball into the future, it can be seen in the Assembly and Senate Daily File reports, and now increasingly in their online video committee hearings.

Here’s what I see think you should know:

If the supporters can find a way to broaden the revenue source to beyond corporate taxes (and the upper personal tax bracket), they might hang onto enough Democrats to pass the bill in both houses by the two-thirds required.

The bill requires that funding go annually, based the 2019 PIT Count, and performance on a number of outcomes to joint County & CoC applicants, and large cities, through the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council.  Its operating and prevention subsidies require significant improvement in performance measurement, coordination, and gap analysis. It’s a good balance of carrot and stick which should please everyone a little.

Please join me in rallying support for this effort by Bring CA Home.



Sunday, April 25, 2021

County and City Budgets Being Approved


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.

Board of Supervisors:  

Santa Rosa City Council

Rohnert Park City Council

Petaluma City Council

Sebastopol City Council

Windsor City Council

Healdsburg City Council

Cotati City Council

Sonoma City Council

Cloverdale City Council

Gregory Fearon


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Designed for Failure - Building Homeless Housing Without Addressing Behavioral Health and Addiction


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

Sebastopol and the Inn - Dec 15th Council Meeting

 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:,-2020<,-2020>

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 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.,-2020/Agenda-Item-Number-8-Sebatopol-Inn-Presentation-and-Discussion.pdf.aspx<,-2020/Agenda-Item-Number-8-Sebatopol-Inn-Presentation-and-Discussion.pdf.aspx>

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.

Arthur George
Chair, West County Homeless Advocates

Monday, October 12, 2020

October 12th, Santa Rosa, CA


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.

Governor Newsom Announces Release of $147 Million in Fourth Round of Homekey Awards


$147 million in fourth round of awards provided to 12 applicants for 20 projects totaling 1,109 units

Nearly $600 million in Homekey awards issued to date for communities across the state

Governor also announces $45 million in philanthropic commitments to fund Homekey operating costs

Today’s awards include six projects in the City of Los Angeles totaling 243 units and two projects in the County of Los Angeles totaling 145 units

Sacramento’s Women Escaping a Violent Environment (WEAVE) will provide nine permanent manufactured units and services for women and children escaping unsafe housing situations

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced the release of $147 million in the fourth round of awards for Homekey, California’s innovative, nation-leading $600 million program to purchase and rehabilitate housing – including hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings and other properties – and convert them into permanent, long-term housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The most recent round of Homekey awards were provided to 12 applicants for 20 projects totaling 1,109 units.

The Governor also announced a partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit dedicated to developing affordable housing, to distribute $45 million in funding – $20 million from Blue Shield of California and $25 million from Kaiser Permanente – to support operating subsidies for Homekey projects. This funding will provide critical support to local jurisdictions to ensure that those housed through this initiative receive critical services like case management, job training, substance abuse counseling and more.

“Behind every allocation we make for Homekey is the story of a Californian who will no longer have to sleep in a tent, in a car or on the street,” said Governor Newsom. “The partnerships with local leaders and their innovative approaches to homeless solutions are inspiring. From helping victims of domestic violence, to LGBTQ youth, to seniors, we’ve seen bold proposals that help a cross section of Californians struggling to find permanent housing.”

The fourth round of awards includes projects in the following communities:

  • The City of Sacramento has been awarded more than $1.5 million for Women Escaping a Violent Environment (WEAVE) to acquire nine permanent manufactured housing units for women and children who are escaping unsafe housing situations, and to provide them with ongoing services.
  • The County of Fresno has been awarded $15.3 million to acquire 204 units for its innovative Crossroads Village project, which will provide permanent housing solutions for more than 200 individuals who have been staying in emergency shelter beds.
  • Los Angeles County has been awarded $16.1 million for two projects totaling 145 units that will leverage Measure H resources and other state and federal funds to provide supportive services and rental subsidies to residents.
  • Orange County has been awarded more than $23 million for two projects totaling 132 units. One project will house those experiencing or at risk of homelessness who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic before being converted to permanent supportive housing. The other will be immediately rehabilitated and rapidly occupied as interim housing, then renovated and converted into permanent supportive housing.
  • Ventura County has been awarded more than $11 million for a 70-unit property to house extremely low-income individuals who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. It will provide non-congregate sheltering during the COVID-19 pandemic and then transition to permanent supportive housing.
  • Marin County has been awarded more than $3.7 million for an 18-unit property that will initially provide interim housing for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness, serving those with a pathway to exit to permanent housing through the county’s well-established Coordinated Entry System. The units will be converted to permanent housing over the next three years.
  • The City of Los Angeles has been awarded more than $39.5 million for six projects totaling 243 units, including five motels and a multi-family property with more than 40 units. All will be used immediately for interim housing before being converted to permanent housing.
  • Nevada County has been awarded nearly $2.8 million to purchase a hotel that will be converted into interim housing for unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness. The project will include a navigation program that will offer immediate safe, service-enriched housing by December 15, 2020.
  • The County of Sonoma has been awarded nearly $11 million for a project that will convert a motel in the center of Santa Rosa into interim housing with a path to permanent supportive housing. The site is in close proximity to services and will give priority to transitioning individuals housed at non-congregate shelters who are at risk of COVID-19.
  • San Bernardino County has been awarded more than $12 million for two projects that will eventually house nearly 270 people. One of the facilities will house up to 133 people while the other will house up to 135 people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and who have been impacted by COVID-19.
  • The City of Salinas has been awarded $9.2 million to acquire a motel that will be converted to interim housing within 30 days and converted to permanent supportive housing in its second year. Salinas has about one-third of Monterey County’s population but almost 50 percent of the county’s homeless population.
  • Placer County has been awarded $1.4 million to rehabilitate a 14-unit motel in the Tahoe Basin that will provide housing to individuals experiencing homelessness who have mental health issues. It is within walking distance of several amenities, including social services and food distribution.

“Confronting and ending homelessness is a team effort, demanding attention, resources, and investment from cities, counties, and our state — and I want to thank Governor Newsom for his commitment to this cause across California,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Los Angeles has taken full advantage of Homekey, submitting applications for 16 properties which, if approved, will add hundreds of permanent supportive housing units to our stock and allow us to bring more of our most vulnerable neighbors indoors.”

“I applaud Governor Newsom for his unwavering leadership and investing much needed resources to combat this crisis within a crisis – homelessness amid a pandemic,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Project Roomkey enabled LA County to bring 4,000 vulnerable people indoors in just months – an unprecedented accomplishment that protected their health and that of the larger community while simultaneously providing a lifeline to struggling businesses. We are ready for the next phase, Homekey. We have eight motels lined up to be converted into affordable apartments with services, a key component of our COVID-19 recovery rehousing plan.”

“With the unwavering support of Governor Newsom, Los Angeles County has taken many actions to reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “Project Roomkey has enabled us to immediately bring some of our most vulnerable unhoused individuals indoors to protect them from contracting the virus and to set them on a path to permanent housing. I remain committed to finding a housing placement for Project Roomkey participants in the County and look forward to working with the other cities and communities to make Project Homekey a successful housing endeavor.”

“Here in Ventura County, we were able to serve over 400 of our most at-risk homeless individuals. On top of that, we were able to transition 80 of those individuals successfully into permanent housing. It just shows that when there’s this commitment community-wide to do this hard work, you can get the results you need,” said Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere. “Homekey is going to help us continue to save lives. We’re going to work with our housing authority and local affordable housing developers to get the projects we need to continue this successful transition from sheltering into permanent housing.”

The three previous awards can be found here:

Building on the success of Project Roomkey, Governor Newsom in July announced the availability of $600 million in funding for Homekey, the next phase in the state’s response protecting Californians experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness, following approval by the Legislature as part of the 2020-21 annual state budget. Of that, $550 million will be provided to cities and counties by California’s direct allocation of the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief Funds, with an additional $50 million provided by the state to supplement the acquisition and provide initial operating funds. The Homekey funds are being expended in compliance with federal regulations in response to COVID-19.

HCD began accepting applications for Homekey on July 22, 2020. Additional awards are expected weekly until all $600 million has been awarded. The response from local governments and housing providers was significant – demonstrating the strength of these state-local partnerships. By the application deadline of September 29, a total of 147 applications had been received from 73 entities statewide, with over $1 billion requested.

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