North Bay

Sonoma County Looking For Proper Ways to Move Homeless Camp Out of Park

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Sonoma County wants to move hundreds of homeless people out of an encampment at a regional park in Santa Rosa, but a court order is standing in the way.

As county officials try to find a way to move the camp, the county’s homeless czar says he has a list of options for supervisors and the city of Santa Rosa to consider. The item is on the county board meeting agenda for next Tuesday.

In the meantime, the camp continues to grow, lining about half a mile of the bike path at Joe Rodota Regional Park with tents and tarp shelters.

A sign at the entrance warns people to avoid going in. Neighbor Matt Cook was taken aback with the size of the camp.

"I’ve never seen anything like this before; I’ve lived here my whole life," Cook said.

Another neighbor, Ben Peterson, lost his bike Tuesday morning, saying someone in the camp stole it.

"A person came riding right by me, riding it," he said. "I tried to grab it, and the person said, 'No, this is my bike from way back when.'"

The city has a history of breaking up homeless camps, but the park trail is county property, and a resident of the camp obtained a court injunction preventing the county from removing people unless it can provide another place for them to live.

"It’s unfortunate, the situation," said Jason Engles, a camp resident.
Engles has been on the streets since he lost his business sales job and then his house.

"Things got tough, and as soon as you’re not paying, you’re out on the streets," he said.

Neighbors like Amy McGraw have been bringing food and clothing and hauling out trash.

"I heard about the trail from the Acts of Kindness Facebook page," she said.

The court order preventing the removal of the campers states the county must first provide another location. The head of the department overseeing homelessness said that other location should be a proper shelter.

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