Kenwood Press

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News: 02/15/2020

Homeless village settles in at Los Guilicos

The frenzied buildup to the erection of an emergency homeless shelter on a Los Guilicos complex parking lot off Pythian Road has given way to a relative quiet as residents have moved into the 60-unit facility.

As of Monday, Feb. 10, 56 of the campers on the Joe Rodota Trail, those considered to be the most vulnerable of that population, had voluntarily moved to the shelter, referred to now as Los Guilicos Village.

“Residents are getting used to the lay of the land,” said Brandon Rojas of St. Vincent de Paul Sonoma County, the nonprofit hired by the county to run the shelter. “People seem to be transitioning well to being here. We’re kind of learning on the go but I like where we are now.”

Rojas estimates the population is 60-40 percent women to men, with the average age being over 50.

Residents were aware of a number of rules to the fenced facility before they agreed to come to Los Guilicos, such as abiding by a curfew and only leaving by a frequent shuttle bus that takes them to Santa Rosa and back. Residents signed an agreement acknowledging the rules.

A major goal, said Rojas, is to make people feel safe, especially women who have been the victims of sexual and domestic abuse in the past, the elderly, and those with serious health conditions.

“It was not safe being out on the Joe Rodota Trail,” said Rojas.

There are personnel from a private security firm there 24/7, as well as St. Vincent de Paul and county security staff.

The temporary shelter site is estimated to cost the county a total of $2.2 million.

Sonoma County declared a health and safety emergency back in December due to a swelling homeless population of 250 living on the 8-mile bike and pedestrian trail between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, much to the dismay of neighboring residents and businesses.

The county has been moving people off the trail the last two weeks, offering various housing opportunities, part of a $12 million outlay to help people who want to get off the street and eventually move into what’s referred to as “permanent supportive housing.” Permanent housing is believed to be the best way to get people back on their feet and address the myriad problems surrounding homelessness, which can include addiction, mental health, and economic issues.

The Los Guilicos emergency site, across from Oakmont, was selected by the Board of Supervisors in January over the objections of Supervisor Susan Gorin, who argued that the site was too isolated and far away from services.

The hurried pace of selecting a location caught Oakmonters by surprise, many of whom objected to not being allowed to give input into the decision-making process. Not surprisingly, there are multiple opinions in the Oakmont community regarding the shelter. A number of people are concerned about the community’s safety and the area becoming a destination for other homeless. Others have been welcoming to the new neighbors, offering volunteer help and donating items for the shelter’s population.

The Los Guilicos site will operate until two longer-term indoor/outdoor shelters are created, but no later than April 30, according to county staff. The indoor/outdoor shelters are the next step before helping more people find permanent housing.

The county conducted a Request for Proposal (RFP) process for potential operators of the indoor/outdoor shelters. County staff is currently evaluating the possible locations, with the hope of bringing a decision to the Board of Supervisors in early March.

Some of the criteria for ideal sites are to be two to four acres in size and have the ability to house up to 80 people.

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