Homeless County Update

People experiencing homelessness in Sonoma County declined by 2% to 2,951 from last year. This is substantially down from the peak of 4,539 in 2011. The number of chronically homeless dropped 10% last year, from 747 individuals in 2018 to 675 this year.

There are some increases in specific groups including a 29% increase over last year for people under 24, some as young as 12, who were living mostly without any shelters. Adults over 55 years of age who are likely to have higher mortality rates than the general population as a result of unmet mental and physical health needs, as well as substance abuse issues, increased by 11% over last year. In this group, men outnumber women by about 2 to 1.

An estimated 21,725 people are at risk of being homeless and are in temporary housing this year. 26% of them lost homes during the October fires. Another 26% are losing their housing due to economic impacts from the October fires which destroyed more than 5,300 homes in Sonoma County, including 5% of Santa Rosa’s housing stock.

Based on staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com and Press Democrat

Memorial Day

There are over 2,000 people who are homeless in Sonoma County. This includes over 200 veterans with seventy percent of these veterans surviving in unsheltered conditions. We can help serve our veterans, who served us, through contributions and donation of time, clothes, and/or money to organizations that help address homelessness in our community.


Did you know that:

  1. Real wages in Sonoma County are up 6% since 2011.
  2. Rents are up 32% and home prices are up 58%.
  3. 78,567 households spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs, or 41% of households.

(Community Development Commission April 2019)

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. http://ucpnb.org/services/recreation-2/cycle-without-limits-bike-camp/

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.