By Bay City News
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning approved spending $180,000 for additional homeless shelter beds and other homeless relief in the wake of the recent cold snap in the North Bay.
The money includes $34,750 for 68 additional beds in the gym at the Samuel Jones Hall homeless shelter in Santa Rosa for 100 days retroactive to Dec. 24. The city of Santa Rosa also is contributing $34,750.
The board also approved up to $25,000 for an additional 12 beds at the Guerneville Veterans Building homeless shelter until March 31.
The board approved providing Catholic Charities up to $20,000 for additional costs of operating a warming station at the Homeless Services Center in Santa Rosa through March 31.
Catholic Charities brought in tents, propane heaters and supplies to the warming centers when nighttime temperatures were in the 20s during the December cold snap.
Another $75,000 was allocated by the board for a pilot, rapid re-housing program by Catholic Charities. The program aims to move 15-20 homeless shelter residents into permanent housing, thereby freeing up shelter beds for people on the street.
The program provides rental assistance and a case management worker typically for a few months but up to two years.
The board also approved $25,000 for a "vulnerable index assessment" to identify the most vulnerable homeless people on the streets and help prioritize them for housing placement.
A homeless count in January 2013 found 3,300 homeless people living outdoors in Sonoma County, and the number of homeless people grew by 50 percent since 2009, according to the county's Community Development Commission.
The increase was attributed to job losses during the recession that swelled the number of people who lost their homes and filled homeless shelters in the county to capacity year round, the CDC's Director Mark Krug said.
Homeless services providers and local churches expanded the county's shelter capacity by nearly 20 percent from 559 to 666 beds during the freeze in December, but demand for beds still exceeds the supply, Krug said.
The supervisors also directed the CDC to explore a suggestion by Supervisor Mike McGuire to determine whether the county can use the parking lots in the county complex that are empty after 6 p.m. as sites for warming shelters with portable toilets and hand-washing stations.
A nonprofit organization would oversee the operation of the warming centers.
Krug said he will have a report on the suggestion ready in the fall.
"We can't wait until fall. That doesn't fit," McGuire said.
Krug will report back on the warming center proposal on Jan. 28.
Copyright © 2014 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.