Recapping the homeless count, progress on the community advisory group
Homelessness in Cloverdale and across the county has taken center stage in recent weeks. Locally, the county’s Ending Homelessness Program Manager Michael Gause presented at the Jan. 8 Cloverdale City Council meeting on statistics gathered from the 2019 homeless count.
While the statistics presented will soon be aged out (this year’s homeless count will take place on Feb. 28, after being postponed from its original Jan. 31 date), some of the discussion surrounding the presentation, and held at the city’s own meeting last week, addressed some of the citywide struggles with addressing homelessness.
By the numbers
According to Gause, last year’s homeless count yielded a count of 2,951 homeless people countywide.
“That 2,951 was a 2% reduction from 2,996 the year before,” he said. “That 2018 number had been our first increase in seven years. I know homelessness is a visible issue — but until 2018 we had actually been declining. Our high water mark was almost 4,500 people back in 2011.”
Locally, the count reported a total of 59 homeless people in Cloverdale, down from 80 in 2018.
While the count includes those spotted on unincorporated areas (2019’s count reported 63 people in unincorporated north county), it doesn’t go as far as to break down where in unincorporated north county people were counted.
Cloverdale Police Chief Jason Ferguson said that in his view, the Cloverdale numbers seem high.
“I’ve been here since August, it seems really high, but that’s from my perspective from August moving forward,” he said. “That number seems really high for the incorporated city.”
Ferguson wondered if there was a way for the county to account for any folks who may be within city limits during the count, but who usually reside on county property.
During a later discussion on homelessness, Councilmember Melanie Bagby requested that the council hold public information sessions with the goal of educating the public on some issues that cities encounter when addressing homelessness. Bagby suggested that, should the city hold public information meetings, they do so once the city’s Homelessness Community Advisory Group has made more headway.
To view a more comprehensive breakdown of the 2019 Point-in-Time Homeless County statistics, visit sonomacounty.ca.gov/
In Cloverdale, the city’s Homelessness Community Advisory Group (CAG) has met twice so far. The CAG, which was formed as a component of Cloverdale’s Cloverdale’s homeless framework, is supposed to have a total of five meetings wherein community members and representatives from pertinent organizations and nonprofits gather to discuss the best ways for Cloverdale to address its homeless population.
The CAG last met on Jan. 14, and discussed the overall goals that the city is trying to achieve by addressing homelessness as well as how to measure success when it comes to addressing homelessness.
“The first meeting we got pretty in the weeds with a lot of the service providers, so we got a good overview of what each service group does in town,” said Assistant City Manager and Community Development Director Kevin Thompson. “The second meeting was more trying to get to a vision. It was kind of a scoping meeting to start getting people to think about how can we tackle the problem and what in the framework can be helpful to Cloverdale.”
When asked about the main discussion takeaways he had from the meeting, Thompson mentioned both a discussion surrounding the potential of a shelter in Cloverdale, as well as an explanatory discussion surrounding the limitations on the actions that the police department can take to address homelessness.
“We spent a lot of time on law enforcement because there’s people who really want us to go down there and kick them out, but a lot of time was spent with the police telling people about the Ninth Circuit ruling, kind of letting people know that it’s not as easy as going out there and throwing people out.” he said.
In December, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in a case that would have made it a crime to camp or sleep in public places. As a result, many municipalities have their hands tied when it comes to being able to address folks camping or sleeping on public property.
Thompson said that he expects the discussions to become more in-depth starting at the next CAG meeting, which will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 11. In an effort to allow folks with day jobs to attend the meeting, which has been held mid-day, the Feb. 11 meeting will be from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
The Homelessness CAG meets at the Cloverdale Fire Protection District meeting room, 451 S. Cloverdale Blvd.