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photo credit: Courtesy California Department of Housing and Community Development
Despite a five percent increase in the number of homeless individuals in Sonoma County since the start of the pandemic, a state program is helping to move people into permanent housing in Sonoma County.

Growing out of statewide efforts to house vulnerable homeless individuals in the early days of the pandemic, Project Homekey provides money for local governments across California to buy and renovate motels into supportive housing. As part of the first phase of the program, the Sebastopol Inn and Santa Rosa's Hotel Azura were purchased and renovated into the Elderberry Commons and Mickey Zane Place, providing 75 supportive housing units between the two projects.

Dave Kiff with the county's Community Development Commission said three new projects are imminent as part of Project Homekey’s Phase 2.

"60 beds in Petaluma, north part of town, it'll transfer to 60 units of permanent supportive housing. Then Rohnert Park has a model also with 60 beds, but it'll be interim housing. And then Healdsburg is purchasing a older motel and that will become 22 units of interim housing." Kiff said.

Kiff said the projects should be completed by the end of this year.

"They're all supposed to be up and running by this fall. Healdsburg might be as soon as August. Petaluma is probably November, Rohnert Park is probably somewhere in between." Kiff said

Michael Gause, who manages the county department focused on ending homelessness, said Sonoma County is looking to move those still housed through older Roomkey programs, like from a site at the fairgrounds, into new accommodations.
"And that's the last one that's still open. We're working on transitioning folks out of that site as we speak, that's mainly due to the FEMA funding going away." Gause said.

With other Project Homekey sites currently in the works, more housing units could be added to the 217 to be completed by the end of this year. That'll push Sonoma County closer to it’s goal of creating 1,000 more supportive housing units.
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