Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Safe Housing Resource Plan

 Sonoma County Board of Supervisors

July 27, 2021

Safe Places: Reimagining Home.

At a time when local decision-makers are under increasing pressure to use state and federal funding for homeless facilities and services, we believe that an open discussion must occur concerning what best assists those on the street.  In Sonoma County, successes with sanctioned villages operated by Santa Rosa and the County (tents at a large local park, and cabins at a converted youth camp) have opened eyes and wallets.  The Virus and community questioning have convinced the City to re-bid its shelter contract, and the Sonoma County Continuum of Care to re-bid its Coordinated Entry contractor's use for placement in shelters.

Is it time to admit that Safe Ground, Safe Parking, and Safe Rooms are a much better set of facilities to respond to the lack of permanent housing than shelters?  State funding for non-congregate, Single-Room Occupancy (SRO) facilities has been the standard for Safe Room facilities (Roomkey and Homekey).  Local funding for Safe Parking is currently being planned.  The Legislature just passed a large new pilot program to encourage and explore sanctioned encampments.  HEAP and HHAP funding from the State has failed in most attempts to build and sustain shelters. 

Recent housing code and permitting is encouraging small unit development (ADU/JDUs), and federal increases in housing vouchers are opening doors from the street to permanent housing.  Finally, we are finding practical solutions which respond to homeless, and gaining institutional recognition of the dangers of congregate, under-staffed shelters.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Something has got to Change

 I would like to second the view expressed by Alice regarding the composition of the COC Board. More people with Living Experience should have a voice to raise issues I refer to as “the tyranny of helping”. Much of what is regarded as civilization is fraudulent in that it works against the individual, like the injection of 6T in newly printed money into the economy and telling everyone it will not trigger inflation, giving big pharma a pass on liability for irreparable harm caused by the not a vaccine needle stick. All claims to be paid by the Government and we all know the source of their money, the little guy taxpayer. The rehab programs run by former users who have “cleaned up” by confessing their addiction and finding a Doctor to prescribe psychoactive meds for depression and anxiety. The “war on drugs” was lost the moment it was declared because from the Coast Guard, DEA, Customs, Border Patrol, Homeland Security, Local Law Enforcement City and County, State Police, the Courts, Public Defenders and Prosecutors, Prisons and Jails, Parole and Probation, Rehab programs and all their Staff TOO MANY PAYCHECKS DEPEND ON IT. Same thing with Single Payer Health Insurance: it would put too many paper processors out of work, like maybe 1.5M. A lot of what puts people on the street is a consequence of feeling “no matter what, nothing ever gets fixed, it’s impossible”. Once they are on the street and scrambling to stay alive they learn after a time a person does not require all that we are programmed to aspire to, College, a Career, Marriage & family, Owning a home. College is NOT for everybody. A skilled tradesman can earn $100k and we have an inadequate supply. Nobody ever really owns a home, because after paying double the sales price for a mortgage, you are renting from the Government. Don’t pay your property taxes for five years and the Government takes it away and sells it. Or the Building Code is updated making the house you built 35 years ago non-conforming, Permits comes and tell you to vacate and demolish using a “licensed” contractor. I won’t belabor the point further except to say some have gone feral after having dreams crashed and learning survival skills. When the Fire Marshal ruled the HUTS not habitable it was a betrayal of the efforts and expectations, hopes of many. They were better than nothing and ten people were deprived of a small improvement.

It’s no better in shelters. If an accusation is made, no effort is made to get the accused version, the person is exited. Shelters may as well have revolving doors. I was put out of SJH twice for doing something I had a Doctor’s Letter for, saying it was a “medical necessity”. MIC is better but not much. I watched the previous shelter manager put out a woman for asking an innocent question; the woman was in tears before she got to the door, it was brutal. COTS rehired a former Program Director in mid 2019, she immediately terminated people and began to rewrite policy back to the Carrot and Stick model, including our PSH rental agreement.  A blatant violation of Ca. Real Estate Law. Nobody advocates for us and few are concerned because we are on the first plateau of being off the street. If I did not have stage 3 Kidney Disorder, I would have left here when the virus BS started. Another fraud. Fatalities among infected including poor souls with co-morbidities .2%, comparable to Flu season. This is not supposed to be about me, I have seen worse imposed on others. No staff here have been trained using HUD tutorials for PSH Staff, so nobody knows what it is intended to be.

The important thing is: almost all the successful programs out of homelessness have an element of self government. There is no consumer rating for shelters. If you read the reviews of COTS online almost all are written by DONORS, wtf do they know about how the clients are treated? Some former Staff reviews on Glassdoor are telling, “NO support from Senior staff”. In 18 months from a staff of 44, 26 are gone (6/19-1/21) 60%, that alone indicates problems. I have been in and out off this for 20 years. When people decide for others “for their own good” what is best for them, it is the worst tyranny imaginable. So sayeth C.S.Lewis. I do not hear any mention of the refuseniks, those who will not be housed, no matter what. You both are probably weary of hearing this same rant from me. I’ll conclude with problems cant be solved without the participation of all concerned. We are voiceless now, it has to change.


Saturday, May 15, 2021

Jackie's Advice


Talking points for Thursdays meeting: 

Hello there, my name is Jackie Nappi, thank you for inviting me to speak today on this subject of working with the unsheltered population. I feel honored and blessed to be here today to speak with you. A little bit about me and the nonprofit I work for; I am a mother of five children, happily married for 19 years now. I work for SAVS, which stands for Sonoma applied village services. We offer a variety of services to our clients that we serve. We help get our clients into shelters, help them with registrations of vehicles, help them get ID's from the DMV, help them to tow their vehicles or RV's, from one site to another, as well as provide them basic necessities for living; like food, water, hygiene products, sleeping bags and tents, among many other things. 

At the moment our non profit is fighting for safe parking, sanctioned encampments, as well as tiny villages, to stop the cycle of constant sweeps. 

I have been an outreach worker for a little over a year now and have been serving the unsheltered community for over a decade. These are human beings who you are meeting, at the hardest point in their lives. think to your hardest point in your life, did you want to hide in the house? Maybe curl up in bed and escape for a little while? Retreat from it all? well, the unsheltered population cannot. Their pain and struggle is visible to the whole world daily. knowing this can help you have a better perspective. We are the privileged serving the underprivileged. I personally use the word serve because it helps keep things into perspective for me. you can never be above those you serve , so I serve all those in need. 

Doing outreach you will come across all different types of people. Start out with no assumptions. The person you are serving, may have once been your next door neighbor. They may be suffering from addiction, which is a way to self-medicate and deal with their harsh situations or past trauma’s. They could have been a doctor or nurse before life took its toll on their lives and they hit a bottom. You’ll definitely come across a few fire victims as well as disabled Vet’s who fought for our country . You can come across old classmates, or relatives, I know I have!! 

You may see some disturbing things during the course of this work. Lots of trash is a major complaint and issue they have. What most don’t know is that it’s usually 1 person with a mental disability of hoarding that will make an entire spot full of trash, but to them it’s not trash, it’s little treasures that they have come across in their day. In a normal situation a hoarder has a house to hide everything in, no one knows about it because it’s hidden from sight. Even millionaires can be hoarders. 

If you do see something that really bothers you, please talk to me or other advocates about the things that bother you that you’ve come across. Hopefully we can give you some direction on what to do and how to handle it in the future. Try your best to not give your first reaction to the unsheltered person, there are many reasons why an unsheltered person is different than those who live in houses. Finding out the reasons, and figuring out what you think about them, will be a learning curve for you. It is something you need to give time to, and let your first impression set on a shelf for a while. 

I would like to challenge each of you to do what I did during my first weeks on the streets, find the beauty that is to be seen all around. Because it’s there! Look at how crafty they can make their spot’s into homes. Look at how they can make discarded trash into shelters! It’s truly amazing what they can do with little resources. Most take pride in their area, and they form little communities who look out for each other. They share food and water and watch each other’s belongings and pet’s when needed. There is definitely beauty to be found if you look for it. 

When doing outreach, encounters are typically the same after a routine is established. That being said from time to time a person may be having a psychotic breakdown or could be extremely intoxicated. Just because someone had an off day does not mean they are always going to be that way. I will tell you a story about my second day on the job ..we pulled up to 5th St underpass and a man was very much agitated, he told us no one wanted food or services that day, he then proceeded to threaten us if we did not leave. My co-worker pulled the bus up a little further away from him and we continued our day serving the people that needed to be served. 

About three days later we came back to that spot And I saw the same man. I looked at my co-worker very concerned, I pointed it out that he was there. My coworker told me not to worry, she said that it was a rare occasion and he was normally not like that. Sure enough he came up and smiled and thanked us for the food. I now have been interacting with that man for a year. I have never seen him act the way he did that second day on the job. Had I have judged him permanently from that one encounter, I would not have the relationship I have with him today. 

Another example I feel is important to give you is actually an example from when I used to do outreach on my own. In my town of Windsor there was a man named Sam. the first time I met Sam, he would not even look at me or talk to me. And he definitely would not take anything from me. 

I was really confused about this because I'd never come across any homeless person that would not take food, water or money. I was extremely perplexed, but nevertheless I persisted. As I persisted to try to have encounters with Sam I also observed him, every time I passed him I noticed he was always cleaning his area making sure it was clean and swept and clear of all debris. One day I passed him an I noticed he was writing on a piece of ripped paper bag. I am a writer myself, so it made me sad to see that all he had to write on was a ripped piece of paper bag. When I notice this I ran home and grabbed a notebook and a pen. I headed right back to him in hopes that this might just bridge the gap. I approached him cautiously because at this point I realized he had extreme paranoia. I introduced myself I told him I noticed he had been writing and that I was a writer myself. I told him about how I wrote my first poem when I was 12 years old for Polly Klass. I told him that I was supposed to be at her house that night, and my outlet for my pain and sadness was too right poetry. he then perked up and said he knew all about Polly Klass and what happened to her, he gave me his sympathies and then gladly took the pen and note pad from me. 

With This little bit of information about myself, I was able to connect… to bridge the gap that was there. A bond was forged that day, that is still present today seven years later. Every time he sees me he does not remember my name, but he does remember I'm the girl from Petaluma that knew Poly class. And that means the world to me. 

Some tips to keep in mind when you're working on this street; Human beings are as unique as a snowflake, not one is exactly the same…this goes for those whom you will come across in your work… each person has a unique story, background and perspective, as well as challenges the may face . 

Energy and body language in my opinion is extremely important, because it sets the stage for the future for you. It lets them know if you're approachable or not. just as they can read your body language, you can read their body language and energy as well, use this to your advantage. 

The unsheltered population are trained to look for your silent cues and signals to see if they can trust you. It is extremely important to be real. smile and show compassion. A smile is extremely important even with a mask on, they can see your eyes, and whether or not you enjoy being there. I am constantly being complemented on how much I smile while working. not only does this help you be more approachable, but when you are truly happy doing this type of service, your spirit helps lift up their spirits, which is desperately needed. Try to avoid threatening or strong body posture like crossing your arms or hands on hips. 

Ask them about their day, if they respond with a negative or just OK ask them about it. They love to have someone listen and most of all care. You won't always be able to solve their problems by any means, but you can always leave them feeling cared for. 

Be approachable and relatable. Don't be afraid to share personal experiences with those on the street, like I did with Sam. That being said do not give out too 

personal of information, always use discretion. I am a person who loves to use my own experiences in life to connect to others, so personally, I feel very comfortable sharing stories about my self that relate to a conversation. I bring up that I have a husband and kids, but as far as my personal information like my addresses, that I would never disclose. And the only reason I’ve had to bring up my husband and kids, is in situations where someone is flirting with me. 

Have something to pass out if you can. (snacks, water, food, toiletries gift cards, cigarettes) these items can help gain trust with those on the street. In our line of work we use food, snacks and water as our gateway to talking to the unsheltered population and a way of gaining their trust an eventually a working relationship. It is always a good idea to carry some type of item to pass out, ,not only do they love it … but they really appreciate it!!! 

A couple don'ts that I have encountered : don't take pictures or videos without consent, not even around their belongings. I have seen plenty of people get extremely upset about seeing a camera out in general. So please be cautious about that. Do not give out unsolicited advice, they already get plenty of unsolicited advice as it is, best thing for you is to stay away from that, if you're trying to forge a working relationship. Probably this homeless person knows what's around to help them. They've probably tried to work with numerous agencies already. You might want their advice about how to negotiate the system but, until you know them pretty well, they don't need yours. Lol 

We recently had an issue with someone who wanted to volunteer being insensitive to the unsheltered, in this instance the man, who was wanting to volunteer, noticed that a woman who is standing next to us had drug paraphernalia hidden in her hand discreetly. 

He sharply asked her to put it away because it was triggering for him. 

Well that triggered the homeless woman because she was trying to keep it discreet, and there is drug use around encampments, so you will run into seeing it from time to time. She told him he should not come around anymore if he is triggered by such things. Needless to say he will not be volunteering LOL this is something to keep in mind though, if you are triggered by such things this might not be the line of work you want to be in, because you will come across it. They are usually extremely respectful and try to keep it hidden, but I'm not going to lie, you will see it from time to time. 

If you encounter an aggressive unsheltered individual, do your best to avoid eye contact, try to avoid the aggressive behavior altogether. If you must leave, walk away with your head down avoiding eye contact, like nothing is going on. 

Do your best to try to keep all interactions and inquiries positive rather than threatening or invasive. Once you really get to know an unsheltered person who has psychotic episodes, their episodes are not scary or aimed at you typically. Please keep this in mind. I have come across multiple people that to an outsider would seem like scary people when they're having an episode, in reality they are extremely sweet in nature when they're not having episodes. In my experience there is nothing you can do when a person is having an episode, you just need to give them their space that is needed in that moment. 

It is extremely important to keep Narcan on you at all times if possible. In one year ,I have came across four ODS, three of which, my Narcan that I had on hand, along with the aid of medical professionals, was able to revive the person who od'd. From my experience it takes 3 nasal Narcan's to bring a person back, the nasal Narcan's come in a 2-pack. if that's all you have on you the person might not make it. Having Narcan and learning how to administer Narcan properly is key to doing outreach on the street and saving a person's life. 

On the subject of saving lives: An amazing outcome happens when you just show a little love and compassion to those in need. You can actually save lives!! I was told by a client that me showing him love and support when he didn’t love and support himself, saved his life! He got into a shelter, is going to regular doctor appointments for his cancer and for his mental health, he’s clean and sober and has reconnected with his children. A woman I know told me she would have gave up a long time ago if we were not out there showing love and support, she stated that even though she is not clean just yet she tries to cut back and stop daily. She told me she would never stop trying because we never stop coming. It’s moments like this that make It all worth while.


At the end of the day the unsheltered population are just people. Again, I would like to reiterate the importance of compassion. You have to have compassion for those you are serving, otherwise your not doing them any good and you're wasting your time and theirs. 

Now it’s time for your questions and comments. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Santa Rosa Police Action, 5/11/21

 Santa Rosa Police Action, 5/11/2021

When I arrived at 4th street and Morgan about 7:30 am, there was a police car across the street from two tents and two piles of belongings. A little trash.   A police officer stood back a few feet from an elderly man asleep on the sidewalk beside his tent. I asked the officer what’s going to happen here?  He said he wasn’t sure.  From the other tent, a man poked his head out,   I asked him if he’d been told he could go to a shelter. His response:  “Yeah, right.  Sam Jones.  I ain’t goin to that *%&#^ place, adding a stream of invective and insisting he wasn’t leaving.  


Continuing on, I found Morgan Street cordoned off from 6th street going north for about 4 blocks.  Lined up behind the barricade were 5 police cars, 4 city trucks, and a fork-lift.  Further down were 2 SAVS vans.  Later a flat-bed arrived with a dumpster.  About10 people were organizing their belongings.  The encampment residents I spoke to had been advised they could go to a shelter.  I said hello to two SAVS women who were talking to them as well.  Six Catholic Charity staff, 5 women and a man, were observing the pack-up from the cement drive beside the abandoned building next to 600 Morgan, both owned by Catholic Charities and surrounded by a chain link fence. 


A Press Democrat reporter remarked on the sign I was holding – (Where Can They Go?)  We discussed the number of officers and city trucks. I told him I thought that the City should be spending all the money this operation was costing on social workers, trash bins, and trash pick-up.  He agreed and said, porta potties and water too.  I said they should be providing these things at sanctioned sites and told him about the SAVS Village proposal and how it would cost far less than Los Guilicos or the Finley encampment.  


We discussed why the people packing up their things refused to go to a shelter. He said he understood -- the regimentation, the lack of freedom and how that contributed to undermining people’s dignity. We discussed the protracted problems of addiction and mental illness, how living on the streets exacerbated these issues, circling back to the need for social workers and mental health workers.


He said he had to leave as he was on a deadline and only had about 45 minutes to write up his article.  He hoped I wouldn’t be mad at him when I read his article.  Why, I asked, because you’re not going to include my perspective?  He said he had to present both sides.  I asked him if his editor controlled what he could write.  He said no, but the subject is ‘nuanced.’ I wondered about the implications of nuanced, if it’s turns out to be comparable to what Edward Said wrote about the phrase ‘complex situation’, how it “too often is a rhetorical signal given … when a grave and immoral complicity with injustice is about to be covered up.”  I guess we’ll see tomorrow.


A PD photographer was documenting the trash and the bulldozing into the dumpster.  I asked the reporter -- why are the photos always of the trash?  Why not the portray the humanity of these people, show images that convey the tragedy of packing their belongings into a shopping cart, their tired eyes and worn faces?   He said he saw my point.


When he left, I walked up to the Catholic Charities compound.  Two women who had been organizing and packing their things were sitting with their belongings near the abandoned building. I stood nearby, holding my sign.  One of the Catholic Charity women came over to me and said, you’re going to have to move, you’re on private property.  She was neither friendly nor apologetic. I hadn’t realized I wasn’t on the sidewalk.

Cynthia Poten

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.