What is Project Homekey?
The State of California is experiencing a homeless crisis. California accounts for almost half (47 percent) of the country's homeless population. Sonoma County has the fourth highest number of homeless individuals for large suburban areas in the United States. The need to bring affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, and transitional housing is critical to addressing the housing needs of the most vulnerable unhoused individuals in the County.
On June 30, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Project Homekey as the State's next phase of response to protect homeless Californians from COVID-19. The Governor has made $600 million available for counties to collaborate with the State to acquire and rehabilitate various housing options, such as hotels, motels, vacant apartment building, residential care facilities and tiny homes. It also includes funding for wrap-around supportive services.
The County was awarded grant funding as part of Project Homekey to purchase the Hotel Azura and Sebastopol Inn.
Why the Hotel Azura and Sebastopol Inn?
The Hotel Azura and the Sebastopol Inn provide the County with the opportunity to bring in some of the most vulnerable homeless individuals into permanent supportive housing. Individuals in this category include those who are over the age of 65 years and/or with chronic or acute health conditions such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), liver disease and individuals who are immunocompromised.
The Hotel Azura offers 44 recently remodeled rooms located in the center of Santa Rosa and the Sebastopol Inn offers 31 newly remodeled rooms in the center of Sebastopol. Both hotels are near grocery stores, restaurants, post offices, medical services, churches and transportation. Finally, the State will allow counties who have purchased such hotels to continue using them for permanent supportive housing after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The owners of the two properties came forward and were able to meet the relatively short time frame for completing the purchases.
Who will be at these homes?
Individuals who are unsheltered and most vulnerable to COVID-19, such as those over the age of 65 and/or with underlying health conditions. This high needs subset of homeless individuals would continue to be served at the Mickey Zane Place and Sebastopol Inn beyond COVID-19.
COVID-vulnerable homeless sheltered at Non-Congregate Sites (NCS) qualify for placement at the Sebastopol Inn. Individuals were identified as potential candidates based on a vulnerability assessment taken at the time they entered the NCS. The NCS include, the Astro Hotel in Santa Rosa, trailers at the County Fairgrounds and the Redwood Alliance in Occidental. People selected are ready for housing and eager to improve their conditions.
What are the wrap around services that people will be enrolled in?
Individuals housed at the Mickey Zane Place and Sebastopol Inn will be participants in the County's ACCESS Initiative. The ACCESS Initiative is an innovative program that provides individualized, integrated services to homeless individuals based on their needs and supports. These services span county and community programs services to provide wraparound and holistic care and interventions which are critical to improving the well-being and self-sufficiency of homeless individuals. Services provided include primary healthcare, behavioral health services and supports, economic assistance, food assistance, employment training and services, and other services. These services are key determinants of successful housing placement of homeless individuals and the permanency of these placements.
Services aim to stabilize individuals linking them to resources and housing, addressing mental health and medical needs, and reducing utilization of emergency medical, acute psychiatric, and criminal justice systems. County staff from ACCESS will be working with individuals on a regular basis.
What criteria was used to select these sites?
Proximity to community services and supports, transportation, and other resources that are more centrally located near these hotels. Additionally, there is tremendous need in the County to have multiple resources, such as these to protect homeless individuals from COVID-19.
What is the timeline for this project?
Given the vulnerability of the individuals targeted for permanent supportive housing, COVID-19 vulnerable homeless individuals who are 65 or older or have serious health conditions, we hope to move them into the housing as quickly as possible.
Individuals will be moving in to the housing beginning in December. The goal is to move individuals into the units on a rolling basis upon completion of the final transaction. Both properties will be converted to Permanent affordable housing for households earning no more than 30% of Area Median Income. Renovations are required for both properties and will include life safety, ADA, kitchenettes and other work.
There are a number of existing homeless services and shelters in downtown. Why didn't the County search fora hotel outside of downtown Santa Rosa or even another area of the County?
The City of Santa Rosa, in particular the downtown area near the Hotel Azura accounts for a high number of homeless individuals in the County. Many of these individuals are unsheltered in the downtown area, and a number of whom meet this highly vulnerable criteria. Unfortunately, Statewide and locally homelessness affects many areas, particularly densely populated areas such as Santa Rosa in our County. The Hotel Azura presents an opportunity to address this issue head on.
That said, we know homelessness affects more than Santa Rosa and in no way do we intend to shift individuals from other areas of the County. That is why we also purchased the Sebastopol Inn. The Board has stated it views homelessness solutions as a shared responsibility and has pledged to have solutions available in every district. For example, Los Guilicos Village is in East Santa Rosa and in District 1. The County is also exploring other opportunities in the northern, western, and eastern parts of the county.
With regard to the Sebastopol Inn, we are hopeful we can begin working toward the goal of housing COVID-19 unsheltered individuals from West County. Unsheltered individuals who meet the vulnerable criteria from West County could be prioritized for housing placement at the Sebastopol Inn.
How much will the project cost? How is the County paying for it?
The County is applying for Project Homekey funding and received grants from the State to purchase these hotels. The purchase price for the Hotel Azura was $7.95 million with overall project costs totaling $16,474,549 in combined Project Homekey and local funds. The County received a $1,056,000 grant from Enterprise Funding, a philanthropic organization, to fund a portion of the operating costs for the first two years of the project.
The purchase price for the Sebastopol Inn was $6.375 million. The total project cost is $10.85 million and includes acquisition, development and Project Homekey operating subsidy.
We also anticipate utilizing other funding sources such as State and Federal funding that has been made available to respond to the COVID-19 epidemic that specifically focuses on addressing the needs of the homeless.
Who would the County select to operate services at the Mickey Zane Place and Sebastopol Inn?
To get people moved in before the end of 2020, the County will be using existing service providers who are caring this population at the Non-Congregate Sites (NCS) throughout the County. Disaster Emergency Medical Assistance (DEMA) will be providing services on an interim basis and currently manages the Astro Hotel NCS. The County expects to undergo a competitive procurement process in 2021 to identify the best qualified service providers to support individuals living in the hotels.
What services will be provided to residents?
The following services will be provided for individuals:
- Care Coordination
- Economic Assistance
- Behavioral Health Services
How long will these sites be in operation?
The County has intentions to operate the Mickey Zane Place and Sebastopol Inn beyond the COVID-19 pandemic as a critical component of the County's overall goal of adding an additional 1,000 permanent supportive housing units to the County's housing.
Will drugs be allowed?
No illegal substances will be allowed.
What are the rules to be at these homes for residents?
Residents will need to abide by rules and specific agreements to live at the Mickey Zane Place and Sebastopol Inn. Rules for these sites are currently in development and will be shared when available. We would also like to emphasize individuals selected are ready to for housing and eager to improve their conditions.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic no visitors will be allowed at this time. For any specific issues or concerns after people have moved in please call (707) 791-5416.
How will security be handled?
There will be onsite security 24-hours a day.
Will you be informing/engaging the community about this project?
Yes. The County held community engagement meetings in August and December 2020. There will be regular meetings established with neighbors going forward for both the Mickey Zane Place and Sebastopol Inn.
Sonoma County engaged community members including neighbors in close proximity to the Hotel Azura and Sebastopol Inn to share with them more about the ACCESS service delivery and care model that will help these newly housed individuals achieve housing stability and improved well-being.
We also engaged with core community service partners that already work with the County to support homeless services and programs to get additional feedback. We also want to continue to get feedback from the neighbors and the community to help shape the programs and services in order to integrate those who will live at the into the Community.
How are you working with the Cities of Santa Rosa and Sebastopol to respond to homelessness?
Homelessness knows no jurisdictional boundary. Individuals who are homeless in the City of Santa Rosa or Sebastopol are likely to have lived unsheltered in other parts of the County as well. We will continue to work with the jurisdictional partners in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol to help coordinate efforts to address homelessness throughout the County.
Where are these decisions being made?
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors directed the Community Development Commission to identify short to medium-term solutions to address homelessness by capitalizing on the funding opportunities being made available from the State of California's Project Homekey. The purchase of the Azura and Sebastopol Inn is part of the County's efforts to bring an additional 1,000 permanent supportive housing units into the County.
What is the best way for me to stay informed on how this project develops?