For Immediate Release
Sonoma, Bay Area counties release preliminary homelessness count statistics
SANTA ROSA, CA | May 16, 2022
Sonoma County, alongside other Bay Area counties, was able to stave off a predicted catastrophic increase in homelessness over the last three years during COVID, according to preliminary results from the first official count of people experiencing homelessness since the start of the pandemic.
Preliminary numbers for the 2022 Sonoma County PIT count show an increase of 5 percent overall with a total of 2,893 individuals experiencing a form of homelessness. This is a change from previous years that had demonstrated an overall downward trend for Sonoma County since 2011. In 2011, the total number of individuals experiencing homelessness in the county was 4,539. Since then there has been a steady decline over the past decade.
The last count in 2020 was 2,745. (No count was taken in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) The overall increase of 5 percent in the homeless population since 2019 and increases across the diverse nine counties of the Bay Area, was smaller than early predictions were suggesting during the pandemic. Projects such as Homekey, safe parking and interim housing, housing vouchers and rental assistance have played pivotal roles in preventing a major increase.
Sonoma County, for example, 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. Other sites that have received funding but have not yet opened include the L&M Village in Healdsburg, The Studios at Montero in Petaluma and 6020 Labath Avenue in Rohnert Park, with a total of 60 units. Additionally, George’s Hideaway in Guerneville and the Redwood Inn in Santa Rosa both have applications under review. Homeless Action Sonoma in Sonoma Valley also has an application under review. The Homekey projects would in total provide 312 new housing units in Sonoma County.
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 today, providing safe parking and services, via Catholic Charities, at the city’s Utilities Field Office off of Stony Point Road. The People’s Village pilot 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 (ERAP) funds, with more than 5,000 applications approved for funding. In addition to rental assistance support, the county also provided funding for Legal Aid of Sonoma County to limit evictions and protect tenants’ rights.
The homeless count is conducted countywide and covers all census tracts with the help of volunteers and paid guides with current or past lived experiences of homelessness. Due to the impact of COVID-19, this year’s count was conducted primarily by volunteers who were paired with guides with specific knowledge of census tracts.
The PIT Count is based on visual observations of unsheltered individuals and groups, as well as a census of people in shelters, and as a result, only provides a snapshot of homelessness during a single point in time. It is a valuable count, but it may not adequately reflect the total number of people experiencing homelessness throughout the year.
While the nine counties of the Bay Area are sharing their own preliminary Point-In-Time count numbers independently, they have also collaborated on a regional press release in recognition of the regional nature of this issue, to provide context for each county's numbers and details about each county's plans for release.
More detailed information based on one-on-one surveys, including demographic data, will be made available later this summer.