For Immediate Release
County releases detailed 2022 homeless point-in-time count, updates camping ordinance
SANTA ROSA, CA | September 27, 2022
The Board of Supervisors today received a presentation detailing the complete Homeless Point-in-Time Count report for 2022. A total of 2,893 homeless individuals were counted during the one-day census taken on Feb. 25, 2022, an increase of about 5 percent from the 2,745 individuals counted in 2020. Overall, however, the number represents a significant decline in numbers for the county over the past decade. In 2011, the total number of individuals experiencing homelessness in the county was 4,539. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sonoma County was not able to conduct a count in 2021.
The PIT Count data are used to track progress towards ending homelessness in Sonoma County, identifying potential gaps in services, and informing future planning for providing homeless services. The count also enables participating agencies to access U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding. In 2022, this funding totaled roughly $4.1 million for Sonoma County.
“The pandemic, which led to personal economic challenges for many people, clearly contributed to an increase in the homeless population, as reflected in the 2022 Homeless PIT Count,” said Supervisor Gore, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “At the same time, we recognize that the numbers would have been far worse if not for the historic investments we have made toward providing shelter and services. We will continue to lean in on homelessness, by providing program support, shelter, and housing to our most vulnerable. We will also hold accountability over encampments, proven through our action today to approve a new encampment ordinance. Progress made on homelessness is not immediate and easy. It is all about imperfect, relentless progress.”
Of the 2,893 individuals counted this year in Sonoma County, 32 percent of respondents indicated their current homeless episode was their first. In 2020, 31 percent reported they were experiencing their first episode. The increase in overall homelessness is likely due to COVID-19, with a high number of respondents indicating a loss of a job or an inability to pay rent.
The top cause of homelessness in 2022 was loss of a job with 23 percent reporting that as the cause compared with 22 percent in 2020. The primary obstacle was the high cost of rent.
“The report and survey helps us identify those who are most impacted within the homeless community.” said Dave Kiff, director of the Sonoma County Community Development Commission. “It emphasizes, too, that solving homelessness requires so many different housing solutions. It’s vital that we work with our local, state, and federal partners to get the resources and flexibility to do so.”
At the direction of the Board of Supervisors, the county has launched a series of initiatives to bolster services and housing options to address homelessness in Sonoma County. For example, the county received approval for five homeless housing sites under the state Homekey program in 2020. The first sites to be awarded funding were the Mickey Zane Place in Santa Rosa (formerly the Hotel Azura) and Elderberry Commons in Sebastopol (formerly Sebastopol Inn) in December 2020.
Sonoma County and its city partners have embraced Project Homekey’s second funding round, with six new projects coming online in late 2022 and into 2023. These include the Caritas Center in Santa Rosa, George’s Hideaway, Labath Landing (Rohnert Park’s 60-unit Interim Housing effort), the Studios at Montero Place (Petaluma’s 60-unit PSH project), the Commons (formerly the Gold Coin in Santa Rosa), and Healdsburg’s L&M Village (21 units of Interim Housing).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors also allocated $2 million to stand up new safe parking and interim housing opportunities in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and Petaluma, with the assistance of these cities. The Santa Rosa project is in operation, providing safe parking and services, via Catholic Charities, at the city’s Utilities Field Office off of Stony Point Road. The People’s Village program in Petaluma provides 25 individual shelters for the most vulnerable community members experiencing homelessness. The Horizon Shine program in Sebastopol, operated by Sonoma Applied Village Services, assisted in the relocation of RVs and cars to a private lot owned by St. Vincent de Paul and managed by SAVS in Sebastopol. Interim housing in Sonoma Valley, operated by Homeless Action Sonoma, is pending to help house individuals in the valley, supported by a $300,000 grant from the Board of Supervisors.
During the height of the pandemic and with the active participation of community-based organizations, the county also distributed nearly $40 million in state and federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds, with more than 5,000 applications approved for funding.
Surveys conducted two weeks after the PIT Count targeted subpopulations of individuals experiencing homelessness including those experiencing chronic homelessness, homeless families with children, Transition-Age-Youth young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 and veterans. Within these subpopulations the survey reported:
- 725 individuals experienced chronic homelessness, a 29 percent increase from 508 in 2020.
- 48 families were homeless totaling 155 individuals, almost all of whom were in shelters. This was a decrease of 40 percent from the 80 families counted in 2020.
- 23 unaccompanied children were homeless (under the age of 18 without parents) and 498 transition-age-youth (18-24) were counted for a total of 521 youth; an increase of 67 percent from 304 in 2020.
- 191 veterans were counted, an increase of 37 percent from 139 in 2020.
PIT Counts across California this year revealed a 13 percent increase in homelessness compared to 2019 and a 6 percent increase when compared to 2020. In the Bay Area, PIT counts showed increases in Alameda County by 22 percent, San Mateo County by 21 percent, Marin County by 8.4 percent, Napa County by 6 percent, and Santa Clara by 3 percent, and an overall 3.5 percent decrease in San Francisco City and County.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development) approved a delay of the count from the end of January to the end of February due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Omicron surge. The full Sonoma County’s 2022 Point-in-Time Homeless Count report can be found on sonomacounty.ca.gov.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday also adopted an amended ordinance limiting daytime camping in public spaces. The amendments ensure Sonoma County’s existing camping ordinance aligns with recent legal decisions while still providing the county with options to discourage permanent housing encampments, prevent garbage buildup and address public health issues.
The amendments, which take effect in 30 days, prohibit camping on public property daily between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. They also prohibit camping on or near certain types of properties, including:
- Inside public buildings
- Within 100 feet of a residence or residential district
- Within 100 feet of a playground, school or daycare facility
- Within a very high fire severity zone
- Within any county park
- Within any public highway, road or street
- Within any public right-of-way, where camping constructs the free passage of pedestrians, bicycles or vehicles
Upon second reading of the ordinance, the Board of Supervisors also will continue its discussion, and review maps, about prohibiting camping within 150 feet of the high water mark of local waterways.
The amended ordinance complies with Martin v. City of Boise, a 2019 appellate court ruling that recognized the fundamental right for unsheltered individuals to sleep in public when shelter is not otherwise available. The ruling restricts a jurisdiction’s ability to prohibit overnight camping when other shelter options are unavailable.
No one will be moved or cited under this amended ordinance without advance notification and warning.