Troubling Statistic

Manuel Santiago (52 year old Pomo Indian) Homeless in Southwest Santa Rosa Photo: Christopher Chung-Press Democrat

Jennielynn Holmes, Director of Shelter and Housing for Catholic Charities, said this year’s local homeless count identified a troubling statistic among those experiencing chronic homelessness. That population grew 25 percent, jumping from 598 in 2017 to 747. That number of chronically homeless ranked the county third nationally among largely suburban areas behind Orange County and Honolulu County. Among largely suburban U.S. communities, the size of the Sonoma County’s adult homeless population ranked second between Orange County, 3,790, and Honolulu County, 2,905. Rounding out the top five in the largely suburban category, this county had more homeless adults than in St. Petersburg/Pinellas County, Florida, 2,235, and Riverside County, 2,087. Press Democrat April 11, 2019

Cold Weather Update

Today, at Catholic Charities Cold Weather Update information was provided related to our homeless community including:

  • There are approximately 3,000 homeless people in Sonoma County (two-thirds are unsheltered).
  • There are 213 beds at Sam Jones Homeless Shelter.
  • There are 138 beds at the Family Support Center.
  • There are 26 beds at the Nightingale (cost $300,000 while saving hospitals $3,000,000-4,000,000 annually).
  • 651 individuals were placed in permanent housing this year (95% of those in permanent housing remain in housing).
  • The Drop-in Center now operates 24 hours a day.
  • Homeless populated increased last year by 6% (there was a 35% decrease in homeless population before October’s fires).
  • Note: after a major event, like the October Fires of 2017, there is usually another increase in homeless population the second year (fewer housing options, lost jobs, stress…).

3 death of homeless people tied to storm-swollen streams.

The most recent annual census, from a count conducted a year ago, found 3,000 people were homeless in Sonoma County, a 6% increase, with housing fallout from the 2017 fires expected to continue to push more people into homelessness. Almost 2,000 people are without shelter in the county on any given night . . . so the recent string of storms has led to noticeably greater strain on those in regular contact with outreach workers. Many lack the basic resources that would allow them to know what weather lies ahead leaving them even more exposed at this time of year, according to Jennylynn Holmes of Catholic Charities.

Russian River Flooding Feb. 19, 2019

The Press Democrat – Staff Writer Will Schmitt (02/19/19) Three homeless men have died since the start of the year in or near Sonoma County waterways swollen by storms, with two of the deaths reported early this week, underscoring the dangers already vulnerable unsheltered populations faces during the north bay we winters. . . The three bodies were found after heavy rains transformed streams through the county into surging, brown torrents, imperiling homeless people who seek refuge along their wooded banks . . . Overall, since Jan. 1 seven homeless people have died according to an unofficial tally complied by Catholic Charities. The other four deaths do not appear to be weather-related.

Cycle Without Limits

United Cerebral Palsy of the North Bay’s held their follow-up camp today at Sonoma State University. It was a wonderful success with young bicyclists expanding their skills and confidence. Several students began to enjoyed the true freedom of riding their own bicycles without any assistance.

Cycle Without Limits

I can take things for granted, like being able to just jump on my bicycle and go for a wonderful ride in Sonoma County. This is something that others aren’t able to do. The United Cerebral Palsy of the North Bay provided a four day instructional program that teaches children with disabilities how to ride two-wheel bicycle without the use of training wheels. There is a one day follow-up camp at Sonoma State University’s Field House on February 9th for these students and even a summer camp later this year. Thank you for this incredible program that is provided with dedicated staff and supportive volunteers.

Paint the Town

Some people will try to spend New Year’s Eve painting the town. Others will volunteer and paint maybe one room at the Catholic Charities Family Support Center in Santa Rosa. Thank you to my grandson, Sawyer, for investing some of his vacation time to help others. Next week we’ll be working together setting up new beds in another room with his 93 year young great-grandpa (Paul DeBolt). All of us can do something to help others and many continue to volunteer making our community better. Thank You and Happy New Year.


Christmas Eve

Many of us celebrated Christmas Holidays with family and friends in our warm homes. There are some in our community without these benefits and they face challenges that most of us will never experience. Sam Jones Hall Homeless Shelter is home for over 200 of the nearly 3,000 people in our community who are homeless. It is a warm shelter that provides food, beds, showers . . . it is operated by an amazing and caring staff. Thank you to Catholic Charities staff and the volunteers who continue to provide critical services for so many in our community.

Happy Holidays

We live close to the snow, but far enough away from the snow that we don’t have to shovel it from our driveways. Many of us are fortunate to enjoy the company of family and friends during these coming days. I hope we will consider sharing some of what we have with people we don’t know and may never see. There are people in our community that can use a helping hand. Not all of us know how to provide a helping hand, but there are many organizations in our community that can benefit from volunteering and donations. If you’re not sure who to give to, consider Catholic Charities Family Support Center; they accept coats, sleeping bags, socks, tarps . . . Yes, they accept cash donations too.

Happy Thanksgiving

Today many of us enjoyed a wonderful turkey dinner with family and friends.  Some people in our community were unable to enjoy this day. There are approximately 3,000 homeless people in our community. Please consider supporting organizations that are working every day to help address homelessness in Sonoma County. There are many ways to participate including: volunteering, donating useful items like sleeping bags, tents, socks, jackets, working bicycles or writing a check. If you have items to donate but unable to deliver, please send an e-mail ( so we can arrange a pickup time. Your contribution and participation is critical in making positive changes in our community.

Smart Bicycling Isn’t An Accident

Ride to be seen and ride as if you’re not seen. Bicycling is most often an enjoyable adventure. To help ensure your bicycle experience remains enjoyable and safe, wear bright colors, use flashing lights (tail and head lights) and ride defensively while wearing your helmet.  Better to be safe instead of becoming a victim involved with a vehicle.

There have been several recent bicycle and vehicle collisions in our community. On October 15th. Joschka Homann a German tourist was the victim of hit and run on Highway 1. On October 30th. Sidney Falbo a local Santa Rosa Junior College Student was killed on the corner of Stony Point and Highway 12. In November, Ian Borden was struck by a vehicle.

By taking precautions you can enjoy a safe bicycle ride.