Elderberry Commons transition Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Elderberry Commons, formerly known as the Sebastopol Inn, is transitioning to a permanent supportive housing complex, which requires converting 28 individual shelter units plus two rooms used by staff. All 28 shelter units need to be vacated while rooms are converted to permanent supportive housing and they will reopen when construction is complete. Construction may take several months depending on supplies, permitting, unanticipated building issues, and labor availability. This conversion was anticipated and required by Project Homekey as a condition of the grant funding award.
Is the Elderberry Commons closing?
The Elderberry Commons is transitioning from a non-congregate shelter (hotel rooms) that was needed during the COVID-19 emergency to permanent supportive housing (more permanent, apartment-like). This requires the site to be vacated while the rooms undergo construction to add kitchenettes and make plumbing and electrical changes and accessibility improvements.
Why is the transition happening now?
As federal and state COVID-19 benefits roll back, and as the site is no longer needed as an alternative care site, Elderberry Commons is in the process of becoming long-term permanent housing with wrap-around services. Project Homekey funds were awarded to help acquire the site to be used temporarily as a non-congregate shelter and then converted to permanent supportive housing once the emergency ended.
What about the people currently being sheltered there?
County staff is in the process of assisting in the relocation of individuals currently sheltered at Elderberry Commons. Occupants of this site were aware that this relocation would eventually be necessary. Individuals were asked upon entry to sign an agreement whereby they “acknowledge and accept this is temporary non-congregate shelter and shall not be construed as a tenancy or giving rise to a tenancy.” Individuals were made further aware in early February that the Elderberry Commons was transitioning from an alternative shelter site to permanent supportive housing.
Caseworkers and housing navigators have been working with those at Elderberry Commons to identify housing alternatives. Some individuals with medical needs may be eligible to transition to the Mickey Zane Place site in Santa Rosa. Housing navigators are working with individuals with Housing Choice Vouchers, Emergency Housing Vouchers or Mainstream Vouchers to secure permanent housing both in and out of the county. In many instances, vouchers can be portable across county lines.
What are Housing Vouchers?
The Housing Voucher system is a federal government program used to assist low-income families, individuals, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing. Rental assistance vouchers are one of the best tools available to use existing housing stock to help those who qualify to find a place to live in Sonoma County’s tight rental market. All vouchers are issued in accordance with federal regulations and are waitlist based. For homeless dedicated project based vouchers, the Sonoma County Housing Authority utilizes the Coordinated Entry System for waitlist referrals.
There are multiple types of vouchers:
- Project Based Vouchers (PBVs) are assigned to a housing project and remain with the project to help it stay financially sustainable.
- Housing Choice Vouchers are assigned to the tenant and move with the tenant
- Mainstream Vouchers are for non-elderly persons (ages 18-62) with a disability who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, who are transitioning out of a mental health care institution or other segregated settings or at serious risk of institutionalization.
- Emergency Housing Vouchers are assigned to persons who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, are victims of domestic violence or who are victims of human trafficking. All referrals for this program come from the Sonoma County Coordinated Entry System.
What is Permanent Supportive Housing?
Permanent supportive housing are deeply affordable housing units that can be leased for a long term with rental assistance combined with supportive services such as health and mental health care for chronically homeless households. This specific type of housing is in great need in Sonoma County.
What’s next for Elderberry Commons?
The location will temporarily be closed as permits are secured, kitchenettes are installed, related electrical and plumbing changes occur and accessibility improvements are completed. Construction is likely to take between 4-6 months. The property is owned by the Sonoma County Community Development Commission and they are working with their non-profit partners, West County Community Services and Burbank Housing Development Corporation, to complete the construction work to convert the site to permanent supportive housing.
Can individuals come back when the renovations are complete?
Once the construction is complete, and in turn, the transition to permanent supportive housing is complete, individuals will be referred to Elderberry through Coordinated Entry. Accepting referrals through Coordinated Entry is a requirement of California’s Project Homekey program. Coordinated Entry is a nationwide process (but set up in regions, such as the Sonoma County CE system)
Coordinated Entry (CE), in short, is a housing prioritization system that works from a list of unhoused people interested in and eligible for housing. To be eligible, a person must be entered into the CE system, typically by a local service provider. The local service provider also typically conducts an assessment of each person’s vulnerabilities - for example, a physical or mental illness, other disabilities, and other life experiences that resulted in their homelessness.
Sonoma County’s local prioritization policy for Coordinated Entry states that the CE program will attempt to house the most vulnerable eligible individuals and families first. This system is used for referrals to all homeless-dedicated housing interventions. It is designed to ensure that everyone who is experiencing homelessness is able to access housing in a fair and equitable manner.
What can Sebastopol community members do to help?
The county, the county Housing Authority and Santa Rosa Housing Authority encourage landlords to become partners for housing voucher clients - like those being sheltered at Elderberry Commons. If you own a property and are a person willing to do a home share, rent out a room, or know of a home share, some of the current Elderberry Commons residents may be good candidates.
Please email James Alexander or Nasim Bahadorani if you have a room or housing property that you would be interested in renting to a person currently at the Elderberry Commons.