Sonoma Homeless

An Open Letter to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors

Dear Supervisors,

We have sat through two days of your rushed deliberations this week in a tightly packed but poorly organized or communicated schedule as you attempt to very quickly create an annual budget to run services on behalf of Sonoma County tax payers and residents.

September 9 2020 Sonoma County Board of Supervisors homeless service budget discussion

The long hours you have spent talking are visible for viewing via Zoom but there has been little opportunity for citizen interaction, except for ninety second sound bites which don’t appear to be taken very seriously, with no follow up or answers to speaker questions.

During Thursday you are presumably meeting off the record before reconvening on Friday to celebrate closing the books on a budget the supervisors think will work for the county and its employees, partners and contractors.

There is virtually no time to react to your conversations and small group consensus agreements, but here are some thoughts on the ‘ending homelessness’ budget expansions and utopian plans you agreed on Wednesday September 9, parts of which are embedded here.

The first law of holes
As noted elsewhere on this site there has been zero success in ‘ending homelessness’ in Sonoma County over the last few years. 3,000 people are homeless and it is clear there is no coherent plan in place, although the increased funds you are helping yourselves to by slashing budgets elsewhere will partially be used to try and figure out what you are doing for the future.

The first law of holes, or the law of holes, is an adage which states: “if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”. Digging a hole makes it deeper and therefore harder to get out of, which is used as a metaphor that when in an untenable position, it is best to stop carrying on and exacerbating the situation.

It’s not possible to have a ‘no confidence’ vote as you are making bureaucratic decisions as a clique with no oversight or community discussion. This has been going on for years, and now that we are in the jaws of a major economic depression sadly both the homeless situation is getting more serious and so is the lack of any sort of coherent planning or consideration of other approaches .

The planned lavish spending on these vague plans fly in the face of logical ways to actually address the three main causes of homelessness: economic hardship, mental illness and substance abuse.

The idea of grabbing grants to warehouse people in hotel rooms is extremely naive and will have serious long term tax base and community ramifications in both Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, while homeless industry ‘providers’ will welcome more homeless with open arms …because that is their reason for existing.

Build it and they will come

It is well known that services provided for substance abuse itinerants act like a magnet, with the ‘RV armadas’ Supervisor Rabbit mentioned heading to Sonoma County from all over. Chico is now heading in the right direction as a community having realized this harsh reality. Supervisor Zane appears to be particularly naive on this topic despite having lived near homeless issues in Sonoma County for some time, and having presumably noticed the increase in needles, human excrement, drug dealing and criminal damage on city streets as she passes through.

The police are overwhelmed and have mostly given up on everything but serious crimes by these substance abuse altered people, who have little empathy or community spirit.

There are solutions being successfully rolled out in other states, with Houston and Austin in Texas notable examples discussed on this site.

We urge you to make public the materials requested by the chair (at 3:20 in this video) from Barbie Robinson, which will presumably form the basis for the backbone of your latest short and medium terms plans, paid for out of contingency funds, and any other plans for public discussion and comment.

Sonoma County residents deserve to be consulted on your proposed plans. Even Sebastopol City Council has no say in your acquisition of city properties with state grant money to repurpose them into homeless room houses. Even local homeless people have predicted this warehousing approach will result in the conversion of a hotel in to a ‘tweaker den’ backing on to the Joe Rodota Trail within six months

We urge you to have some humility and consider the entire community in your planning, and to study what actually works in ‘ending homelessness’, because what you have been executing so far has had little success.

Please feel free to respond in the comments section and we look forward to future dialog as a community.


23 replies on “An Open Letter to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors”

I wish to second Oliver Marks written comment to the BOS on homelessness. He is completely correct. I hope to hear a solid, thoughtful, and progressive response from the BOS. Thank you!

I totally disagree with oliver marks. This is a great idea which will give a small bit of safety and normalcy to some of our local housing marginalized sevastopol residents. The local population will have the priority and that will fill it. A private bedroom and bathroom can make a huge difference in someones life. Its a great use of tax dollars. I say yes.

I also second Oliver’s entire letter.
As elected officials, you have a duty to the residents of Sebastopol to allow for input, discussion, and proper vote when making such monumental decisions. Many people don’t even know or are aware of what you are up to as once again you are trying to rush and sneak the approvals through the process before anyone catches wind of your actions.
This does not seem to be the appropriate or democratic strategy for which you were elected for. Please reconsider your strategy as “representatives” of the people.

Standing ovation for Oliver- please take this seriously, you who have some power! Most of us who have strong feelings that are reflected in
what Oliver has written you feel powerless. But we live here and are
very dismayed at the decisions that are being made against better judgment. Sebastopol will suffer.

I completely agree with what Oliver has said. I have watched for years as this board has ignored the citizens of this county, and acted in grossly selfish acts. I beg you to remember who pays your salaries, and funds these programs. It is us. Those who work, and vote in this county.

The bos has been working hard to make budget decisions as required by law. Oliver has his own agenda, aka no homeless services in seebass toepul. Why support a nimby agenda?

Open your home to help. If you cannot comprehend that people opposing this plan do want to help, but can see this on a grander scheme and how detrimental it is to acquire this money without and plan, then you truly are a big part of the problem. If you believe it’s just housing the homeless needs and you’re not a “nimby”, by all means open your home and house a few people in need.

It’s really hard to blend socioeconomic levels! Please, have a weekly crime log for citizens to view. Provide clarity, 100 percent, to what upfront costs to budgets, five years out, are for blending populations that aren’t on par with the Sebastopol population.

We are already blended. The population that this will serve already live among us. Maybe You dont know them because your not really a part of the community, but the rest of us are all in this together. By the grace of god do i have a safe bed and a private bath to clean up in. You need to check your privilege sir. No one is moving into your home, you dont get to dictate privilege. Get a grip.

Libby Hicks….I admire your sense of responsibility to care for the homeless. We fully expect you to open your home and bath to those you claim to care for. Please follow up with us all on the results, and thank you for your act of kindness

I agree that a more wholistic approach is needed. The amount of money spent with little or no result during an economic depression is irresponsible. As a business owner that had to close due to unchecked drug use and vagrancy, I feel the pain of the downtown businesses that are hanging by a thread now. We must consider public places are for everyone including children and we are unable to use our parks now due to the bad policies which have not addressed the root issue. Let’s get some policies in place to fix this problem, it is inhumane to continue with a band aid approach to a total Hemorrhage.

Oliver has made a well-reasoned argument for the value of community input, transparency, and the need to listen to and respect the community comments and suggestions made to you. Rushing through this process will assure that all angles aren’t fully examined, and are therefore a waste of taxpayer dollars. How is it that Santa Rosa is able to buy properties from Sebastopol without the input of the community which stands to be impacted by the choices you make?

Im not sure why theres a big toodoo about ‘rushing’. Its either a good idea or its not so just say that. And this is a great idea. Personally, I am embarrassed by oliver marks and the people of privilidge speaking out about offering this token convenience to local citizens who have been pushed out on this streets in a merciless housing market. Im okay with people living here who wont be ‘dropping dough on the Barlow’. Im also not okay with scapegoating the least among us for economic catastrophe that is COVID. These people have absolutely nothing to do with our local businesses falling off. That just makes no sense at all. YOu are a pretty insensitive bunch to talk down an option to our local citizen’s safety and warmth with a room and a bath. Shame on you. Go forward city council and thanks for coming up with such a decent plan. Kudos.

Agreed. Our concerns are real and you, the BOS, are being asked to listen to the issues that you do not seem to be addressing. Thank you.

Those in my neighborhood (St. Rose, Santa Rosa) are up in arms about the BOS purchase of the Azura Hotel to house the unsheltered because it has been presented as a fait accompli. What little discussion there’s been between the BOS and our neighborhood hasn’t been focussed on reasonable alternatives but on persuading us to accept something we clearly feel is not appropriate for the area. We’re already heavily impacted with homeless services….more than any other neighborhood in the county, and the approved Caritas Village (Catholic Charities) hasn’t broken ground yet! Santa Rosa City Council clearly doen’t want this but is unwilling to stand against it. The feeling here is that the whole project is being ramrodded through without regard to our Historic Districts efforts to restore, improve and beautify St. Rose Neighborhood. We feel we’ve done our fair share. It’s not a lack of compassion foe the unsheltered. It’s a feeling that this burden is not being shared nor is it being tackled with any clear vision towards the future,

Just do this. I am more than appalled at this community’s harsh denunciation of opening the hotel to carefully chosen individuals who have been homeless. I have lived here in this community for well over forty years and have watched this town move from neighborly to entitled consumers. To think that 34 or so homeless individual will cause stores to be boarded up is ludicrous. These people who have no home are people and deserve compassion and care. This is NIMBYism at it’s worst. Keep on working this one…our community…note I said community…not an entitled empire… we need to reach out and help the less fortunate. Thank you.

People that oppose this do not oppose helping. We are wanting to help but in a manner that is sustainable and also not detrimental to our community. Please stop using the word nimby bc it is a cop out. You aren’t listening to what we are saying. Also, if you’re so passionate, please open your house and house a few of the homeless in need. If people like you would step up and open their homes, then the problem is partly remedied, and the city can still have important tax money to survive and provide basic needs for the community.

I second and completely agree with Oliver. This whole NIMBY word being thrown out are from people that do not understand the basics of economics and people that think we live in a utopia. People that are against converting the hotel aren’t people that do not agree in helping the homeless. We are people that see the grand scheme of things and how spending 25 million just to purchase 30 rooms to house people is economically ludicrous and will not help the homeless problem. We do not even have a fire department; it is a volunteer department. We have so many financial issues as a city and to add this is not only a burden on the city but also a disservice to the homeless bc this will fail. This is something that is multi factorial and beyond housing there’s a need for rehabilitation programs. If the public is in denial of the mental health and substance abuse problem within the homeless community then you are part of the problem. Where will this community of homeless receive such services in a small town that can barely provide these services to its tax paying citizens. This isn’t a socialist county either. Move to Europe if that’s what you want. You aren’t creating a solution. There’s multiple examples similar to what is trying to happen is Sebastopol that proves it will be a failure, a waste of money and a detriment to city tax revenue bc the hotel will not be in existence. Stop pointing fingers at people that work very hard and barely can make it themselves calling them NIMBY. You should then open your home to a few homeless people. You would be helping them and therefore solving that issue without creating a long term economic crisis in our small town. I am sure there are at least 30 people in the town that keep saying all these nimbys. Well open your home, now you’ve helped the homeless without removing a huge city tax revenue- the hotel.

And what I mean by socialist is that we are democratic. This should be a community decision. Not one made my Sebastopol councilmen and BOS in an irrational way without the public knowledge. It’s almost like they just want to acquire this money to fluff up their resumes. There isn’t any altruism. There’s no plan. There’s a denial of crime, violence and drug abuse that affects our community and will not be remedied with just having housing…. I can’t believe that this is something that has to be explained and that is just going over people’s head. If this were altruistic of Sebastopol councilmen and BOS, then there would be true involvement of the community, transparency and a plan!!!! Also, BOS and city councilmen are our voice, our representation and they’ve not shown that as they do not listen nor answer any concerns. The mayor intimidated and mocked people with their concerns. He didn’t have an responses to the concerns either… when Robinson was asked to elaborate on police logs that involve many of the homeless crimes, there was just denial as if these logs and encounters aren’t real. How is this altruistic? It’s not.. it’s a facade of altruism and really it’s selfish bc they’re only thinking of how it will benefit their progress as politicians. It’s a great thing to put on paper… that’s all it is. They keep saying it’s a great opportunity. It’s a great opportunity for themselves to be the officials that gained these large grants. Wake up people.

I have a relative in law enforcement in Redding. He has told me that they have seen the amount of homeless encampments reduced dramatically, because they are headed to Sonoma county for the free hotel rooms. Why encourage homeless to migrate here, when they really should be directed to more affordable areas. As long as they are in Sonoma county, the government will have to support them, on our already overtaxed backs.

What a lunatic decision. Spend a fortune. Damage our town’s economy and social wellbeing to house just 30 people? It’s madness and there must be a better solution that would help many more homeless people. You just haven’t found it.

What if I were to, and other Sonoma County residents take in a homeless person to our own homes? Adopt a homeless person? I would be willing to take in someone that needs housing. Of course they would have to be triaged for the right homes. I believe there is a solution to this, and our County Governments cannot do it alone. I believe it needs to be a community effort.

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