Homeless population receives help from grant

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has approved a grant allocating $630,000 to three different non-profits to help with the homeless situation.

Supervisors signed off on the grant Tuesday, also continuing the safe parking program, which designated sites around Santa Rosa for people to sleep in their cars overnight.

According to a 2015 report conducted by Applied Survey Research, Sonoma County has a homeless population over 3,000, with 67 percent living unsheltered. Unsheltered is classified as living on the street, in abandoned buildings or encampment areas  and in vehicles. Of the 33 percent living in shelters, 20 percent were in emergency shelters and 13 percent in transitional housing.

Despite a decreasing number of homeless over the years, the homeless population across Sonoma County has become more noticeable as of late. Many are forced out of large encampments and into more visible areas across the county.

The grant funds will be allocated to three nonprofits aiming to help the homeless - Catholic Charities, Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) and  county initiative to cooridinate homeless services.

Catholic Charities, an organization  offering many different services, has a variety of resources to aid the homeless. The Family Support Center, located in downtown Santa Rosa, is a 138 bed facility aimed at helping homeless families, especially children. The center’s Coach2Career Lab offers assistance to those in need of employment. The center also features an after-school program for children living at the center.

Other housing options in Santa Rosa include Samuel L. Jones Hall  for single adults and couples without children. In addition, there is also Nightingale in Santa Rosa, which helps homeless adults discharged from the hospital in need of extra recovery time.  The Rainbow House located in Napa,  helps single young mothers.

Transitional and permanent housing solutions are also provided for those to who qualify. Catholic Charities also offers counseling services, assistance with employment and shelter during inclement weather.

Founded in 1971, Social Advocates for Youth , helps the 18-24 year old homeless  demographic. In the 2015  Applied Survey Research report, 18-24 year olds made up 21 percent of Sonoma County’s homeless population in 2015. 

According to the SAY website, this demographic of homeless grew 450 percent between 2009 and 2013, to the highest per capita rate in the nation.

In March 2014, plans were unanimously approved by the Santa Rosa City Council for SAY’s Dream Center, on Dec. 28, 2015 the center opened. The Dream Center features 63 housing units, counseling and job training, along with seeing

The Applied Survey Research also reported 67 percent of the homeless population cited not being able to afford rent as an obstacle to obtaining permanent housing; with23 percent cited a lack of housing availability.

A June 2016 RealtyTrac report listed Sonoma County as number 10 on a list of the Top Ten Least Affordable Places in the United States. Zillow cites the median housing price for Sonoma County is approximately $600,000, almost an eight percent increase from the previous year.

There are other programs and resources available for homeless across Sonoma County, such as the Redwood Empire Food Bank, which provides healthy food to those in need of assistance. Soup Kitchens and food pantries across the county also provide meals to those in need.

Programs are available for youth and teens as well, such as the Coffee House Teen Center, which is part of the Social Advocates for Youth organization. Open 24 hours a day, 364 days a year, the downtown Santa Rosa facility is a safe space for runaway teens and homeless youth in need of short-term shelter, as well as food and counseling options. SAY also offers transitional housing for youth, as well as a variety of college and career readiness programs.