Email to Project Homekey: ‘Status of Sonoma County Project HomeKey application? ‘ 


Could you please let us know the status of Sonoma County’s application to purchase the Sebastopol Inn for permanent  conversion into homeless beds. This whole process is shrouded in secrecy and it is very hard for citizens to know what is being imposed on them by our county’s politicians!

You can find details of the challenges faced in Sebastopol and also Santa Rosa, which has the fourth largest ‘homeless’ population in Californian on our 

website and on the Citizens for Action Now!  Santa Rosa website. 

Which is a separate and now partner venture. 

We strongly believe that Sonoma County should be using one of the many pre existing sites and campuses they own to immediately get to grips with the homeless situation. 

The Santa Rosa fairgrounds could be immediately repurposed to help provide the many vehicle based homeless with sanitation and other basic facilities, and temporary housing erected before the winter. Longer term large campuses owned by the county such as the former hospital on Chanate Road in Santa Rosa could be developed as low cost housing/tiny homes. There is sanitation, power and water on site and the model that has been so successful in Austin Texas could be easily replicated there. 

We feel very strongly that removing the only functioning downtown hotel in Sebastopol, (which was recently used for fire evacuations) to use as homeless accommodation is a non starter. We talk to a lot of the local homeless people in Sebastopol and even they think it is a bad idea. It is located on the trail where a huge 250+ person homeless encampment sprang up last year and an RV living local commented to me this week that it would ‘become a tweaker den within six months’.

We are keen to see the county pursue well thought out strategies to help the homeless, and those with substance abuse and mental health problems, but damaging a small town like Sebastopol by removing the only hotel that is a vital part of local hospitality and associated jobs is a terrible idea. 

Buying 30 hotel bedrooms to convert to ‘homes’ doesn’t begin to solve the scale of homelessness issues, hurts the small downtown on multiple levels and is yet more evidence of Sonoma County’s complete lack of credible strategies or budgeting for homeless services as evidenced by last year’s civil grand jury report

Thank you for your time and we look forward to receiving details of the status of Barbie Robinson’s Sonoma County application for Project Homekey funding as soon as possible!



Sonoma County supervisors shift $2 million that had been earmarked to buy hotels to support local businesses and rental assistance programs

Press Democrat September 1 2020….To boost funding for small businesses and struggling renters and landlords, supervisors shifted $2 million that had been eyed to help purchase two hotels to house homeless residents. Instead, the board agreed to split that amount, with an additional $1 million each going to the small business grants and rental assistance programs.

Supervisor David Rabbitt expressed frustration with the process, saying he had always been against using CARES Act funding for the hotel purchases, even if he’s supportive of the program as a whole. The original amount slated to help small businesses — $1.5 million — didn’t come close to fixing the problem, he said
“It creates the illusion that we’re actually doing something when it’s actually a token amount of dollars,” Rabbitt said.
Toward the end of the discussion, Rabbitt led the effort to delay a decision on funding for the purchase of the Sebastopol Inn and Hotel Azura in downtown Santa Rosa, the two hotels eyed for homeless housing. He sought to put all $2 million allocated for those purchases into grants for small business before Supervisor Lynda Hopkins brokered a compromise that will split the money between small business help and rental assistance.
Supervisors will revisit the funding for hotel purchases next week, when they review spending of one-time money in budget discussions set to kick off Tuesday. Rabbitt said the need in the business community is more immediate than for the hotel purchases, which have yet to be finalized.
“For me, it’s about setting ourselves up for success instead of failure,” Rabbitt said….

Read more here


Santa Rosa Hotel Azura no sale to Sonoma County Petition

‘Our small neighborhood next to the Hotel Azura in downtown Santa Rosa has a similar response to the County’s proposal to purchase the hotel with Homekey funds from the State’:

The 72 Acre Chanate Road former Kaiser campus is a good fit for a large tiny home community

Sonoma County supervisors scrapped their most recent effort to sell the Chanate Road campus after a third developer walked away in early 2019 from negotiations to develop the land in northeast Santa Rosa for housing.

The Board of Supervisors first tried to sell the property for up to $12.5 million in a deal with local developer Bill Gallaher. His plan, which envisioned more than 800 units on the 72-acre site, was derailed by a lawsuit filed by neighbors of one of the largest vacant developable public parcels for housing within Santa Rosa city limits.

The county is required under state rules to deal principally with affordable housing firms or public or nonprofit entities in sale negotiations.

The Chanate Road property is currently mostly vacant, with maintenance costs soaring as the county seeks to control and limit break-ins and vandalism.

Sonoma County spent $768,000 in 2019 on securing the buildings against break-ins, and by June of 2020 costs reached $519,783, including last November and December, according to county documents.

The most recent decision reached by the board was to tear down 13 of the buildings on the site. $10.8 million was earmarked in September 2019 but bids for that work are at an unknown stage.

Meanwhile this Chanate Road campus property value has dropped. Having been appraised for $7 million in 2016, the value had dropped to $4.24 million by 2019 partially due to escalating costs for seismic studies and demolition of the asbestos-ridden buildings along with lawsuit resistance from neighbors.

According to a Press Democrat article by Ty Silvy “It is a perfect property to place an appropriate level of housing and services,” then Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Susan Gorin. “I’m confident we can find a developer to move that forward with the neighbors. But it seems to be challenging right now.”

Given the rapidly expanding homeless crisis this 72 acre property, which had been intended for low cost housing development should now be developed as ultra low cost and low cost housing, along with short term use of the Santa Rosa fairgrounds to house the homeless, and as temporary homes for homeless construction workers to work with the county and community to convert the Chanate Road campus.


Citizens for Action Now Sonoma County Website

Citizens for Action Now Sonoma County is a Santa Rosa focused website who have been focusing on homeless issues for some time. We highly recommend their website and blog, particularly this recent post about past failed programs and policies

How Many Homeless Programs and Policies Since 2007? Let Us Count The Ways.

Attached below this post is a public comment made to the Home Sonoma Leadership Council by an expert in homeless provider programs and systems who also has intimate knowledge of our local problems. 

Key takeaways?

Sonoma County has attempted to deploy numerous programs to “end homelessness” for the past 13 years. They tout a “35% reduction” without any proof, not telling the public that it had to do with changes in HUD definitions and count methodology. We didn’t “house” over 1200 people over a two year period(2013-2015). Since 2015 we’ve had virtually no change in the number of homeless and the tiny percentages they try and trumpet as success are statistically insignificant since they do not accurately count nor track those in their care.
Take a look at all the stuff Sonoma County has tried. They get an impressive presentation by a homeless consultant and run with their suggestions. Or tour one program elsewhere, again with an impressive presentation and no real proof that it did anything to significantly decrease homelessness. 
Finally, realize that almost NOTHING in the literature “proving” that housing first keeps people housed long term. Almost all studies only look at two years or less. Local officials love to claim they housed thousands. What they don’t tell you is it could be as little as 6 months to a year that a person stayed in whatever housing solution they put them in. After that they have no idea where they are. Sonoma County has a 28% success rate in keeping people housed past two years. NHIP Data
We need local officials to humble themselves and admit…read more on Citizens for Action Now website

Reno/Washoe County Vulnerable Population & Homeless Strategy example

Vulnerable Population & Homeless Strategy

Vulnerable Population & Homeless Strategy

Currently, the Community Assistance Center (CAC) in downtown Reno provides services to assist individuals who are homeless, and is made up of three shelters and programs:  

  • Men’s Shelter
  • Women’s Shelter 
  • Family Shelter 
  • Well Care 
  • Early Learning Center
  • Restart
  • Community Health Alliance (CHA)

HSA provides 2.7 million dollars in funding for the CAC; however, a new approach was needed to tackle homelessness in the region, including separation of populations, diversion opportunities, and increasing case management services.    

A statistical analysis was conducted to get an overall grasp of what needs and goals residents had; as well as, to establish a baseline for better outcomes.

Upon conclusion of the analysis, residents at the shelter needed the following services to reach their goals of living independently: 

  • Housing
  • Employment
  • Medical and Mental Health Assistance
  • Transportation
  • Program and Service Availability
  • Vocational Rehabilitation

It was also concluded that needed resources for this population to achieve better outcomes were:     

  • Access to mental health and substance abuse resources
  • Decrease admission to jail and emergency room stays
  • Preservation of families to prevent foster care placements
  • Evaluation of individual needs vs. one size fits all
  • Increased and ongoing case management
  • Safe and stable environment
  • Find and sustain employment
  • Help others in same circumstances (peer support)
  • Reconnect with family/friends

In 2018, the State of Nevada executed an inter-local agreement with HSA for the use of 7 buildings (2A, 8C, 8 Central/South, 600, 601, 603, 604) on the campus and added two buildings (602 and 605) to provide homeless housing.   

The initial agreement for 7 buildings was approved by the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) on October 9, 2019.  The secondary agreement to add 602 and 605 and redefine building 8 Central/South for the State staff was approved by the BCC on June 11, 2019.  The overall budget approved for this project in FY 2020 was $11 Million. 

In order to keep the project on time, some State staff will have to be temporarily relocated from buildings 602 and 605 to building 8 so buildings 602 and 605 can be remodeled for Our Place occupancy.  The Washoe County Community Services Department was brought on to manage the planning, design, permitting, construction and post occupancy phases of development.  HSA will manage operations for this essential community function upon completion of construction.

Sonoma Homeless

‘Sonoma County Has a Homeless Crisis. Is There a Response Plan?’ 2019-2020 Sonoma County Civil Grand Jury Final Report

 Sonoma County Has a Homeless Crisis. 
Is There a Response Plan?

A self-initiated investigation by the 2019-2020 Sonoma County Civil Grand Jury. 

The Grand Jury interviewed 18 key leaders involved in the homelessness crisis in Sonoma County. The interviewees represented law enforcement, appointed and elected officials, governmental department heads, homeless service providers and formerly homeless individuals. 

The Grand Jury attended Board of Supervisors meetings (in person or through streaming video) when homelessness was on the agenda. Additionally, the Grand Jury obtained data from the website, including data from the many departments tasked with addressing homelessness. 


Approximately 3,000 county residents are without permanent housing each night. About 2,000 of them also have no temporary shelter. They sleep in cars, RVs, doorways, and temporary encampments under a freeway overpass, along a road, or on public property. Recent encampments include “Homeless Hill” off Farmers Lane, “Camp Michela” in Roseland, and a large collection of tents and temporary shelters along the Joe Rodota Trail. The numbers of homeless individuals have remained virtually unchanged over the last several years despite various plans to find or generate housing. Homelessness is as extreme an emergency as a natural disaster. As such, it deserves the same sense of urgency and a response of similar scope. 

When the fires of 2017 occurred, the reaction was immediate and overwhelming. An emergency response center was set up at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in a matter of days. Hundreds of first responders were housed in trailers and tents within hours. Emergency response teams such as the Red Cross connected fire victims with temporary housing immediately. Floods and fires in 2019 similarly involved large-scale evacuations and temporary shelter options. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted shelter-in-place orders, massive business shutdowns, and park closures to help ensure “social distancing.” The approximately 3,000 homeless residents require a crisis response as well. 

Homelessness does not respect political boundaries. Multiple governmental and private agencies provide services to the homeless in Sonoma County. Much of the funding for these services comes from state and federal sources and is disbursed on a year-by-year basis, making long-term planning difficult. Use of these funds must adhere to guidelines based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development model known as Housing First, which prioritizes permanent housing over temporary shelters. The policy places the most vulnerable at the highest priority for housing. 

The greatest constraint on housing the homeless population is the lack of available accommodations of any type. There are simply not enough beds to fulfill the needs. Nevertheless, multiple plans and policies to “solve” the homelessness crisis have been adopted, with little change in the numbers of people sleeping on the street. 

Perhaps the most glaring example of the lack of adequate planning was that of the encampment on the Joe Rodota Trail in the fall of 2019. The homeless encampment grew to nearly a mile in length and at least 250 strong before public awareness and pressure dominated the news. The Board of Supervisors responded to the crisis with a hastily developed plan that committed over $12 million for various shelters and services. This occurred while under the restrictions of a legal settlement in response to the October 2018 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the Boise case. The settlement required that homeless people displaced from encampments on public land be offered suitable shelter as well as a number of other services. Sixty (60) of the trail occupants were placed in tiny houses installed at Los Guilicos and 

approximately thirty (30) others were placed in other temporary shelters. Over 150 homeless people determined there was no viable option for them and chose to search for another spot to pitch their tents. 

Despite representing less than 10% of the county homeless population, the Joe Rodota Trail emergency resulted in a significant redistribution of homeless funding. The Joe Rodota Trail problem could have been averted had a plan been developed and implemented to provide adequate shelter options. 


The Sonoma County homeless population has remained relatively constant for the past four years. During this period, Sonoma County has struggled to address homelessness with a variety of reorganizations, leadership changes, and planning studies. These efforts have produced little change. 

During this time, the County and the City of Santa Rosa used Housing First as a model for addressing homelessness. In 2018, these governmental entities, along with the City of Petaluma created a new governing body, the Home Sonoma County Leadership Council (LC), intended to be the homelessness policy coordinating governing body for the County. The Community Development Commission (CDC) currently serves as the lead agency. In addition, the Home Sonoma County Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) was formed to serve as an advisory body to the LC. The LC began meeting in mid-2018 and disbursed $14 million in state and federal funding for homelessness-related services in 2019. On the advice of the TAC, the LC subsequently adopted a Coordinated Entry System (CES) for making assessments and decisions regarding both shelter and permanent housing. 

Finding safety and security in groups, many homeless people form encampments throughout Sonoma County. The largest and most visible of these was the Joe Rodota Trail (JRT) encampment in 2019, but many encampments had formed and disbanded in earlier years. 

Joe Rodota Trail (JRT)

Examples include “Camp Michela” in the Roseland neighborhood, “Homeless Hill” near Farmers Lane, and a sidewalk encampment in the 6th Street undercrossing of Highway 101. Other homeless encampments formed in Guerneville, Cloverdale, and Glen Ellen. 

Click here to continue reading ‘Sonoma County Has a Homeless Crisis. Is There a Response Plan?’ 2019-2020 Sonoma County Civil Grand Jury Final Report

Click Here to view 2019 Sonoma County Homeless Census Survey Comprehensive Report to compare…

Sebastopol Inn

Photos of the Sebastopol Inn at Gravenstein Station, August 24 2020

Sebastopol Inn at Gravenstein Station entrance

Street signage on highway 12/Sebastopol Avenue entrance
The view from Sebastopol Inn at Gravenstein Station entrance to Coffee Catz and main Gravenstein Station building
View of Sebastopol Inn at Gravenstein Station entrance from Gravenstein Station Coffee Catz
Gravenstein Station front entrance

Gravenstein Station business building on east side of property
Gravenstein Station entrance exit
Inside Gravenstein Station retail businesses (Covid19 shelter in place era pictures)
Inside Gravenstein Station retail businesses (Covid19 shelter in place era pictures)
Inside Gravenstein Station retail businesses (Covid19 shelter in place era pictures)
Rear view of Sebastopol Inn from Joe Rodota trail, thin wire fence separates path from public land inhabited by indigents
Aerial image of areas discussed in this post