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The Rohnert Park City Council will review the status Tuesday of homelessness there and discuss the city's response.

As part of the city's response to the issue, the council is being asked to endorse the Sonoma County Continuum of Care (CoC) 5 Year Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.

CoC is a regional body with the lead responsibility for addressing homelessness in the county, the city said. It prioritizes services and access to shelter and holds the purse strings for federal and state funding, advising the county on its allocation of funds. Two of the body's 17 seats belong to Rohnert Park.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors recently endorsed a strategic plan created by the CoC, and cities within the county can do so as well, the city said.

The CoC plan calls for investing more in housing and prevention, strengthening support services, and coordinating service partners across the county into one system.

High priorities for the plan include funding interventions that are most likely to reduce chronic homelessness, such as Housing First models and permanent supportive housing. A Housing First model posits that people have a greater chance of tackling larger issues in their lives such as mental health and addiction after first getting a solid roof over their heads.

In the long-term, the plan hopes to create new housing, 75 percent of which is permanent and 25 percent short-term. In the past, more funding has gone toward short-term housing, the city said.

Another approach recommended by the plan is to increase the use of evidence-based, proven programs for people who are unsheltered versus "promising practice" programs that have not yet been tested.

The CoC also wants to fairly compensate direct service providers with competitive wages, as well as give them proper training and support.
In 2023, CoC has made adding 200 permanent supportive housing units and 100 non-congregate shelter beds part of its action plan.
There are no overnight shelters in Rohnert Park, the city said on its website, and individuals are often referred to shelters in Santa Rosa and Petaluma, which are often full and have waitlists.

A 60-unit interim housing program, Labath Landing, opened last October and offers on-site supportive services for people experiencing homelessness who are categorized as the most vulnerable, such as people with physical or mental disabilities.

Since 2021, the city said it has placed 129 people into permanent housing, engaged 569 people through outreach efforts, and has moved 146 people into interim housing.

"Homelessness is one of the most challenging issues facing Rohnert Park, Sonoma County and the state of California," the city said in a statement released Friday. "It's a long-term challenge that requires considerable time and money to address."

Rohnert Park provides a snapshot of its unsheltered population and how it is being addressed on the city's website. According to the city, on any given night, there are an estimated 248 individuals experiencing homelessness there. That number was only 15 on any given night in 2015.

According to a 2020 survey of homelessness, Rohnert Park has around 9 percent of the county's overall homeless population, the city said.

The Rohnert Park City Council meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 11 at City Hall, 130 Avram Ave., Rohnert Park.

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