With overnight temperatures dipping near freezing amidst soggy weather stretching more than a week, advocates for the homeless are demanding immediate help.
Kathleen Finigan is a volunteer spokeswoman for the group Homeless Action of Sonoma County.
"This is a moral crisis as well as a health crisis. Every year, I and other members of Homeless Action have gone to our mayors, in August, saying, 'OK, here we are again, looking at winter. What are you going to do to help people,?' And nothing changes. Nothing happens." Finigan said.
According to Finigan, two unhoused Guerneville residents died last week, at least one due to exposure. She accuses county officials of taking credit for 53 new shelter beds, when she said 2,000 people are living on the county's streets. She's also angered by a recent county press release warning about health risks from the cold, when there's no provision for the unhoused.
"It's kind of a bitter pill, I think, to hear the county saying, 'oh, please don't spend too much time outside because you can get hypothermia,' while the fact of the matter is, there is no place for them to go," Finigan said.
She added officials have proven they can leap into action on short notice, offering shelters to disaster victims within hours.
"That's never happened for the people who are homeless, despite the fact that we've been declaring homelessness as an emergency in the city of Santa Rosa and the county for years."
Finigan said that though officials often speak with compassion, she's so far received little feedback from leaders.
"I've heard back only from Chris Rogers, mayor of Santa Rosa, who has been looking into what can be done as far as the authority he has over various locations. I have had no responses from anyone else, except, I think I got a thank you from [county supervisor] Susan Gorin for sending the information," Finigan said.
KRCB has reached out to Sonoma County officials for a response to these calls for action. We will bring you that conversation later this week.