Fifty remaining homeless campers from the 250 who were camping along two miles of the Joe Rodota Trail in a Sonoma County Regional Park in Santa Rosa were gathered their belongings in compliance with a final deadline to leave Friday.
Some left in loaded pickup trucks, 12 were going to a temporary emergency camp in east Santa Rosa that accommodates 60 people in mostly 64-square-foot structures, others were planning to go to the Sam Jones homeless shelter or the Redwood Gospel Mission in Santa Rosa. Some said they didn’t know where they were bound.
The county declared a health emergency in December along the trail containing makeshift tarp tents and simple wood structures because of unsafe and unsanitary conditions including human waste, discarded needles, fire hazards and a rat infestation. Neighbors living along the trail demanded action during meetings of Board of Supervisors and the Santa Rosa City Council.
Employees of several Sonoma County departments and agencies were on hand Friday to access the health and human service needs of the campers, provide transportation and direct the campers to housing options. Then cleaning of the trail was to start immediately and finished by March.
Sonoma County Regional Parks rangers and Santa Rosa police were present, but there appeared to be no arrests of campers who refused to leave as of early Friday afternoon.
Campers were provided with two bins on wheels for their belongings and up to two more totes for storage up to 90 days in lockers at a nearby facility.
Advocates for the homeless also were present, including Kathleen Finigan of Homeless Action.
“I think the county is trying. This is a significant departure from previous efforts by other organizations. The county has been kinder and more responsive. It’s cause for optimism.”
“Nothing was done for years to alleviate the suffering of 3,000 people on the streets.”
Miles Sarvis of the Squeaky Wheel Bicycle Coalition, favors moving the homeless campsite from the trail to a large parking lot at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.
“These people were not offered an alternative. They were evicted on the pretense of an emergency. The county is the emergency.”
“This is not a solution at all. We’ll see this again.”
Camper Jody Clay, 51 and a 40-year resident of Sonoma County, said he, like some others did not know what their next move will be, but many left to avoid arrest.
“People are crying. They don’t know where to go.”
“The whole nation is learning about this.”
“I have changed my life. I like being sober but it’s hard to (live) out here.”
“I was sober for 19 years then my brother died of cancer and all my strength turned into weakness. I’m clean now. I have a 10-year(-old) daughter. All I need is some stability in a place away from all this.”
A few hours later, Clay said he learned there was a bed for him at the Redwood Gospel Mission in Santa Rosa.