Placeholder Image Signs prepared for the march to the Palms Inn
photo credit: Noah Abrams/KRCB

Issues at a Santa Rosa supportive housing facility have been well-documented, and some say not enough is being done. KRCB was on the scene at a small rally and march held Thursday morning, March 16th, by residents and community groups.

Last summer reports of black mold and lax security at the Palms Inn on Santa Rosa Avenue, a former motel converted into supportive housing for homeless individuals, prompted efforts to revamp conditions at the site, according to Palms Inn owner Akash Kalia.

But a 2022 murder put the spotlight back on the troubled site, and residents and their supporters are calling for change.

Ka’Lane Raposa, a former Palms Inn resident who has been vocal about its issues, said oversight is needed.

"This is a community problem," Raposa said. "It's going to take a community to solve it, not one nonprofit organization or another one; and if you know about the problem, I feel like you're responsible to help solve the problem. And right now, I don't think anything short of a grand jury is going to satisfy anybody. People need to be held accountable."

Patrick Hutchinson, a Palms resident, said exposure to black mold caused his health to decline, even landing him in the hospital for three weeks with a serious infection.

"When I moved in there, everything was good for, oh, the first year," Hutchinson said "I've been there three years, and then I started having chronic illnesses, just didn't feel good. A lot of, fungal infections in my feet; the building's been known to be infected with black aspergillus mold."

Seth Donnelly, an organizer with the new Centro Poder Popular, or Center for People Power, said while oversight of the Palms is the immediate goal, the big picture on housing needs to be kept in perspective.

"In the longer run, what we're calling for is really humane, decent upfront investment in public housing," Donnelly said. "And it shouldn't be this kind of situation whereby private owners of dilapidated hotels are profiting by providing substandard shelter to folks that were previously un-sheltered."

Dmitra Smith, previous chair and an 8-year member of the county’s Human Rights Commission, said the concerns of Palms residents should not be ignored.

"Because when there is no visibility in the margins, there is abuse," Smith said. "We know that as human rights monitors. It's easy to say, don't listen to these people, they're drug addicts. Don't, don't listen to these people. They're homeless. Don't listen to these people. They're poor. Don't listen to these people. They're crazy."

"We know what gaslighting is," Smith said.

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