You study LA, SF, or Seattle’s homeless problem not to see what to do but what NOT to do and learn from their mistakes.
LA. Homelessness has risen 12.7% from last year despite over $400M spent yearly by the City.
Prop HHH promised over a BILLION dollars for homeless housing. “Nearly four years after voters approved Proposition HHH, only three projects have opened, construction has not started on three-quarters of the planned units, and many projects may “never come to fruition,” said Galperin, adding that the delays began before the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Unit costs for housing the homeless exceed half a million a piece now.
LA Times Article

When you actually dig into the article you discover a few things. Not every project will cost over $700k like a couple that are referenced however overall it’s STILL ungodly expensive for supposedly bare bones homeless housing.
Also regarding those motel conversions-“Ann Sewill, general manager of the city’s Housing and Community Development Department, said savings from motel conversions, while appealing, are unproved. “Everyone thinks motels are lower-cost, but there haven’t been that many models going through,” Sewill said.”
What about some other options like tiny huts? “Critics say other housing options for the homeless are also turning out to be more costly than predicted. In a new court filing, a group suing L.A. city and county over its handling of homelessness praised plans for small houses called “Pallet shelters” but described the operational cost — which they put at $42,000 a bed — as “nothing short of outrageous.”
Take a gander at what Los Guilicos costs per month to operate.
The Mayor meanwhile sticks dogmatically to housing first, “Mayor Eric Garcetti will continue to work with Galperin on keeping homeless housing costs down, according to spokesman Alex Comisar. But he added that the mayor’s focus remains on permanent housing.”
1. Look at what is being done outside the housing first gravy train for far less money. Examples-sprung structures, modular housing, public/private partnerships, outright philanthropy, faith-based. A lot of these folks can do things with a fraction of the money.
2. All the money saved on expensive and untenable housing first projects can be funneled into mental health and drug abuse treatment options and you can provide actual comprehensive wrap around services.
3. Safe parking, tiny hut villages, and the like CAN work but here’s the catch. You actually have to have the police, city management, the public, and the providers all on the same page and working together. It can be done, it IS being done elsewhere. The reason it doesn’t work here is because of the lack of transparency and distrust. Nobody wins here and everybody loses.

Attached below this post is a public comment made to the Home Sonoma Leadership Council by an expert in homeless provider programs and systems who also has intimate knowledge of our local problems. 
Key takeaways?
Sonoma County has attempted to deploy numerous programs to “end homelessness” for the past 13 years. They tout a “35% reduction” without any proof, not telling the public that it had to do with changes in HUD definitions and count methodology. We didn’t “house” over 1200 people over a two year period(2013-2015). Since 2015 we’ve had virtually no change in the number of homeless and the tiny percentages they try and trumpet as success are statistically insignificant since they do not accurately count nor track those in their care.

Take a look at all the stuff Sonoma County has tried. They get an impressive presentation by a homeless consultant and run with their suggestions. Or tour one program elsewhere, again with an impressive presentation and no real proof that it did anything to significantly decrease homelessness. 
Finally, realize that almost NOTHING in the literature “proving” that housing first keeps people housed long term. Almost all studies only look at two years or less. Local officials love to claim they housed thousands. What they don’t tell you is it could be as little as 6 months to a year that a person stayed in whatever housing solution they put them in. After that they have no idea where they are. Sonoma County has a 28% success rate in keeping people housed past two years. NHIP Data

We need local officials to humble themselves and admit their version of homeless reduction is not working. We need to adapt working programs and solutions that are verified from elsewhere to address unique local needs. We need public/private partnerships. We need PFS-“Pay For Success” programs that get funded when they show verifiable metrics of success. We need community investment and buy in on programs that have demonstrable proof they work for the many we are trying to serve. 


“So what’s your solution?”
We hear that in CAN a lot, as if all we do is complain and not offer any solutions. We’ve pushed for transparency and accountability. Made suggestions that were ignored. Others offer simplistic “feel good” things that sound great but don’t address the underlying problems.
Fact is we won’t end homelessness and we won’t improve our community until some hard truths are acknowledged. As outlined here before.
1. Housing First as a policy does not work as implemented and practiced in Sonoma County.
2. High rents are not the primary cause of homelessness. Mental illness, drug abuse, and the societal trend of single adult households without sufficient resources are.
3. Red tape and bureaucracy limit the ability to build more affordable housing options for the marginally employed and sheltered homeless.

What can we be doing?
There’s so many innovative approaches we could be taking in this County. Please note that other communities are having verifiable success that can be duplicated if local leadership is willing to humble themselves and admit that they failed, reset our approach, and move in another direction.

1. Vouchers.
Section 8/Housing Choice.
Allow people to “pair up” and get a roommate with a voucher. To my knowledge, this is not allowed. That’s why Palms Inn is a Single Resident Occupancy program, because they each get one voucher for their room.
Edit: After poring over the HUD guidelines, it appears that shared housing arrangements are allowed under specific circumstances.
“The following may reside in a shared housing unit:  The assisted family with other residents of the unit.  Other persons who are assisted under the tenant-based program.  The owner of a shared housing unit, unless s/he is related to the participant by blood or marriage.”
“However, housing assistance may not be paid on behalf of an owner.”
“There will be a separate housing assistance payment contract and lease for each assisted family residing in a shared housing unit. “

Discretion is given to each respective housing authority in respect to housing availability and other factors. 

It still begs the question as to why there’s so much emphasis on SRO-Single Room Occupancy locally? Palms Inn, Gold Coin, possible Azure Hotel, and the hotel in Sebastopol. You could pair people as roommates and house twice the number of people with the same funding

2. Shared Housing.
Relates to above but also there should be some sort of pipeline program to match people up. Kind of like a “roommate finder” app or Craigslist post.

The majority of homeless people do not clinically require a single occupancy arrangement. They can be like the majority of human population in the world and share housing.

3. “Fact finding mission”.
For the cost of one round trip economy ticket and some time on skype/zoom, a designated city/county employee could investigate other communities with a proven track record of reducing homeless numbers that are backed up with data and transparency. Seek out other Continuums of Care with similar population numbers but much higher permanent supportive housing placements, less homeless, and less recidivism and FIND OUT HOW THEY’RE DOING IT. 
Edit: Just had a conversation with a city council candidate that remarked they brought up a nationally recognized, innovative homeless program in another state to a sitting Supervisor who had never heard of it.

4. Forget bribing or punishing landlords. BECOME the landlord.
If a landlord is not breaking any laws or being discriminatory, the city/county should not be interfering with the transaction. Attempting to sway a landlord to rent to section 8 by offering incentives or punishing them with more rent control laws and restrictions will have the opposite intended effect.
The County should just buy the damn buildings and become the landlord. We already have a Housing Authority, make them the landlord.

This is already starting locally with the purchase of several hotels using Covid emergency homeless funding via Project HomeKey. It COULD work if the County doesn’t farm out daily operations*, invests in actual intense case management, is transparent about actions and outcomes, and doesn’t just warehouse people who because of housing first policies are not required to participate in any treatment or even attempt to earn income.
* A recently published article in the Press DemocratBarbie Robinson, the interim director of the CDC and director of Health Services was quoted, “During the Sebastopol council meeting, Robinson said she didn’t know who would provide the permanent supportive housing services for homeless residents at the Sebastopol Inn site.”

As an aside, I’m also not aware of any collaborative meetings where the County Housing Authority has had a meeting of the minds with the local landlord groups to try to come up with a game plan to get more landlords on board with a concrete plan to address tenant issues and the economic harm imposed on landlords to take a chance.  

BTW Finland was touted having “ended homelessness”. They didn’t (there’s a blog post about that) but they did succeed in getting many OFF the streets because Helsinki OWNS 60,000 units of housing.–nY38BMRo

5. Forget “navigation centers” and emergency shelter expansion.
HUD doesn’t fund it anyway. Just go directly to permanent supportive housing and congregate housing.
With all the money wasted we could have hired licensed/degreed social workers at a good salary.

6. Interim step.
If you ARE going to have tent cities and tiny hut villages, the County/City runs them, NOT activists with no expertise. Furthermore, there is a hard timeline to exit.
We tried a safe parking program before. It failed because there was no exit plan.
These types of arrangements were never supposed to be permanent by federal standards.

7. Clearer understanding of HUD’s low barrier mandates.
From what I’ve read, I don’t think the County knows exactly what is and isn’t allowed or what discretion they have in utilizing funding.

8. Locals preference.
Determine who is a resident, ie. pay stub, old utility bill.
Prioritize veterans, single parent families, transitional age youth, and elderly.
Taken at face value, the PIT count shows 13% of the roughly 3000 homeless are not residents. Furthermore the most recent report presented to the County shows hundreds of “high utilizers” are not from here.
Tax dollars should not go to funding anything for them.

Out of state tuition rates for colleges are there because people not from here have not paid taxes into our system to take advantage of a subsidized education. Homeless services should be no different.
Humanely and carefully evaluate people and refer them to their County’s system of care. Provide transportation if need be.

9. Work program/exchange.
Single able-bodied individuals can stay at the sanctioned tent or hut village for free, provided with mandated services and monitored compliance. In exchange, they can do public works, beautification, or supervised work experience.
Again case management and a timeline with an exit plan that is stuck to.
They don’t like it or think it’s too restrictive? Well, they can find work or move to a lower cost area. 99.4% of Sonoma County’s population are not homeless. If you don’t like being told what to do then don’t live on the taxpayer’s dime.

10. Revamp CES-Coordinate Entry System.
We desperately need better tracking throughout the system.
Right now there’s no humanly way possible that a social worker and/or a police officer has any way of knowing what specific beds are available in the entire system, only the “official” contracted providers. I have on good authority our tracking system is not adequately updated or checked for errors anywhere near often enough.

11. Build more affordable housing.
Duh I know. Everybody says it but virtually no one actually does it.
I won’t belabor the reasons why, especially in California, but it CAN be done.
There’s a builder in Portland that builds affordable units at a fraction of the cost by building in less desirable areas and using non-union labor. Last I checked up on him he was closing in on almost 500 units.
Modular student housing went up in 4 days in Berkeley.
Red tape and regulatory hurdles are nearly always why we never have enough or it costs a fortune.
There’s many different types of housing we could be looking into.

We’ve got to figure out a way to negotiate with labor unions to back off on some affordable housing projects by waiving the % union labor requirements. In exchange, we throw them a bone by giving them a higher % on other projects.

12. HUD Moving to Work.
Get our local congressman and senators on this.
This program provides more flexibility with federal funding than we currently have.
Provides exemptions from many of the Public Housing Authority and Housing Choice voucher programs.

13. Church properties.
Let’s get local churches in on this by helping them convert their properties to affordable and homeless housing.

“Religious institutions own thousands of acres of land in the U.S., and amid falling membership and participation, calls to convert surplus faith property and places of worship themselves into housing have gained traction.”
“Property owned by religious institutions usually isn’t taxed, meaning those parcels tend to be revenue drainers for cities in addition to being underused sites for housing. In California, a state with one of the country’s largest homeless populations, about 38,800 acres of land are owned by religious institutions and have development potential, according to a study published in May by University of California, Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation. Building affordable housing on some of that land could go far in addressing the state’s housing shortage; religious institutions own more than 9,000 acres of land in San Diego and Los Angeles counties alone, according to the Berkeley study.”

5 years. $150M spent. Housing First policies with no preconditions.
The Board of Supervisors and SR City Council pledge bold action.
Read these articles from 2015.
Notice the language. Notice the problems cited.
Notice all the promises and ideas put forth.
5 years ago they were spending $20M a year.
5 years ago they started doing outreach and engagement, offering services.
All kinds of great ideas thrown around.
5 years ago there were roughly 2000 unsheltered homeless counted.
Today there are STILL roughly 2000 unsheltered homeless counted.

5 years is an important milestone. That’s enough time to determine whether a policy or program is successful.
Enough is enough.
Times up.


Get ready for another round of politicians and people on social media crowing about how “we’ve reduced” homelessness significantly, including a 7% drop from 2019 to 2020!
See that huge drop from 2013 to 2015? That’s where the vast majority of reduction happened.
We didn’t start the yearly count until 2015, before that it was every two years which is the federal requirement.

Anyway, where did almost 1200 people go?
Politicians like Supervisor Gorin claimed back in 2015 that it was due to an “improved economy”.

Why spend 10s of millions on homeless funding if the improved economy is what reduced homelessness?
If that were the case we should have seen even more reduction in homelessness since it was only Covid that halted to longest economic expansion in history-128 months.
Unemployment in late 2015 was 5%. By Apr 2019 it was 3.5%.

One simple question you can ask anyone that keeps touting this “success”.
Why have we not been able to replicate that unbelievable achievement since?

One thing that hasn’t been posted much about in detail here at CAN is this,
how successful is Sonoma County and the City of Santa Rosa actually getting and keeping people in permanent housing?
Housing first is the mantra. The key they say to “ending homelessness” is housing, housing, housing.
OK so how are we doing on that score?

According to data compiled by the National Homelessness Information Project for FY 2015 thru 2018, the net housing placement rate puts Sonoma County at 280 out of 380 Continuums of Care. 28.5%, meaning less than a third of the people in the system are placed into permanent housing and are still there after taking into account how many fall out after 24 months.
Score is Placement Rate minus (Placement rate x Recidivism rate) since only those placed into permanent housing are subject to recidivism.
In layman’s terms it basically tells you how well a community is doing in actually keeping people off the streets. Our elected officials make a big deal out of the number of people supposedly “housed”. No transparency or accountability. No one questions the numbers they spout.

Also note the national average is 33.7%. Also note how much better some continuums with similar numbers of homeless are doing.
Knoxville/Knox County-68.5%.
Pittsburgh, McKeesport, Penn Hills/Allegheny County-55.4%.
New Orleans/Jefferson Parish-61.5%.
San Bernardino City & County-48.5%.

That 2 year mark is important. People disappear out of the system for all kinds of reasons. Some succeed in moving on with their lives. Some move away. Some fall back into homelessness and aren’t tracked or found again. They just disappear. There’s precious little data or peer reviewed studies of retention rates past 2 years.
If you care to learn more, here’s the full report.

This information is important enough to post in its entirety. 
Credit: NHIP email list. Author: Michael Ullman, Ph.D.
Pay particular attention to #2, #4, and #6.
Locally we need:
Better data that’s verifiable and more accurate.
Stop spreading the myth that high rents and housing prices cause homelessness.
We’ll never “end” homelessness so “10-year action plans” are pointless. Even “functional zero” beyond just veteran homelessness is a pipe dream until we face reality-it’s a drug abuse and mental health crisis. 
If we don’t invest far more sums into those categories instead of continually trying to build “affordable housing” we’ll just waste 10s of millions more taxpayer dollars.

Dear Marc Benioff, CEO Salesforce:

You have donated $30 million for a Research Institute on Homelessness at the University of California at San Francisco. You have personally lobbied for hundreds of millions of dollars in additional state and local funding for housing and homeless services for San Francisco, the Bay Area and the State of California.. Those efforts are appreciated.

The NHIP offers the following action steps needed if you want to help the public better understand the problem of homelessness and improve services with the hope of reducing, but not ending, street homelessness.

1. Improve the accuracy and increase the frequency of street counts.

How effective could you be in leading Salesforce if you only received financial statements every two years? Currently, San Francisco, Oakland and several other Bay Area Cities only conduct a homeless street census every two years without any check for accuracy. This is below the standard of most cities who complete an annually count. Given the urgency of the problem, unsheltered counts should be done quarterly (if not monthly), including recounts for accuracy, especially in key areas with a high density of street dwellers (e.g. Mission, SoMa and Tenderloin) with results disseminated widely. These counts also need to be completed by trained professionals – not volunteers receiving 45 minutes of training or overworked case managers who already have a full-time job.

2. Improve your monthly HMIS reporting

Currently, the reporting from the HMIS is below standard. Only 56% of the emergency and transitional beds and 73% of Permanent Supportive Housing units are reporting data into the HMIS system. How could you make decisions about Salesforce with only half of your departments reporting? The monthly reports produced by the homeless department continue to be lacking in necessary data needed for decisions. I challenge you personally to improve this aspect of homeless reporting for SF. Here is the latest January 2020 report. If you read it, you will see. If you need assistance, the NHIP can explain what is missing. I do not blame the current staff, because they do not have the skill and training to produce rigorous reports. Salesforce is all about timely data analytics. Let’s make that a goal for SF homeless reports.

3. Stop opening Emergency Shelters (aka Navigation Centers)

The Emergency Shelter, call it what you want, is the failed solution of the 1980s and 90s. This is why HUD provides zero Continuum funding for these shelters. All Emergency Shelters should be closed or converted to permanent housing. If you read the monthly report, you will see that the success rate from these Navigation Centers is less than 15% with most clients just returning to the streets. The fundamental flaw of homeless services is asking a person who has come in from the streets to leave the shelter and go to a “better” place. Upper-class people may not think a shelter or congregate living is permanent, but for many people it is good enough. Do not kick people out just because they stay a long time. This is a good solution for them until THEY decide to move on.

4. Explain to the public that the lack of affordable housing does not cause homelessness

Please understand that affordable housing does NOT cause homelessness. The primary engine for homelessness is the formation of one adult households without sufficient resources. Most adults without resources live with other adults. This is why homelessness is not significantly higher. Any functioning household who cannot afford housing will move somewhere else or move in with family or friends. Laws, federal regulations and societal trends that fuel the creation of these one-adult “deformed” households need to be addressed. Currently, an individual with a housing subsidy cannot allow another family member or close friend to come live with them. These types of regulations are anti-family and anti-community and a big part of why we have such high levels of homelessness..

5. Prioritize shared-housing – the normative housing for most SF residents – for current homeless persons.

SF has 8,600 permanent supportive housing vouchers/subsidies that each support one adult. The norm for middle-to-lower income persons in San Francisco and the world is shared housing – whether that is 4 Ivy League grads sharing a house or 3 tech coders sharing a 3 bedroom apartment. SF and other Bay Area homeless services needs to prioritize the development of shared-housing opportunities for any new or re-opened voucher. This can create 50 to 100 percent more housing opportunities with the same amount of funding. Only a very small percentage of homeless persons clinically require their own apartment, most can and many thrive in shared-living situations. Shared-living is how most people make it in San Fran. It is both appropriate and beneficial for social animals like humans.

6. Explain to the public you cannot end homelessness unless you want a police state

Stalin and Hitler ended homelessness. In the US, we have civil rights that allow persons to occupy public spaces. How much space is between the community and the constitution. These same civil rights allow people to own a gun, marry same sex partners, practice their religion, and seek justice for crimes. To a large extent, persons living in public urban space is a social movement that says “F-You” to the wealthy who also enjoy the same city. We can do better, but we should not even attempt to end homelessness and people need to understand the reasons.

You have made a good start by hiring two medical professionals to take on the leadership of the Center. Homelessness is co-morbid with a high prevalence of serious disabilities and chronic health conditions. As we know, living on the streets is associated with a shorten life expectancy of 10 to 15 years.

The Center needs to add to its arsenal diversity in the understanding of the roots causes of homelessness (not affordable housing), the analytics required to monitor progress, and the creativity to apply normative housing solutions to quicken the pace of action. Unfortunately, the Science of Homelessness is currently at a Second Grade level. We need to improve it enough to earn a High School diploma, and by doing so, improve the homeless situation and the public’s understanding of homelessness in both SF, the greater Bay Area and the Nation.

Thank You
Michael Ullman, Ph.D.
National Homeless Information Project


“75% of unsheltered homeless report a substance abuse condition”.
“78% of unsheltered homeless report mental health conditions”.
“50% of unsheltered homeless exhibit tri morbidity”, which means they have a substance abuse problem, a mental health condition, AND a chronic health problem such as hepatitis C.

The vast majority of homeless people you see out on the streets, JRT, camped along creeks, under overpasses, are NOT victims of high rents or greedy landlords.
They should not be in self-governed tiny home villages free to shoot up & do whatever they want.
They should not be warehoused at Los Guilicos with virtually no counseling or real treatment.
They need court mandated comprehensive mental health treatment, intense drug abuse treatment and counseling, and tough love, not burritos.
THAT is what’s needed to save their lives.
It’s embarrassingly obvious that the majority have no ability to self-govern, or they would not be where they are.

Source-UCLA California Policy Lab

For any community to truly make a meaningful dent in reducing the homeless population, we have to first recognize that much of what is presented to the public is not accurate. 
Article after article. Social media post after another trumpets “success” of one location or another that “ended veteran homelessness” or “we’ve reached functional zero” or “we reduced chronic homelessness by X %”.

Once you get past the headlines and actually use quantifiable data, you discover everything is not as it seems. CAN! has repeatedly pushed for our local elected leadership to take a hard look at the data and make policy decisions that reflect what’s there, rather than react to pressure from the local homeless industrial complex and misguided activists.

According to the National Homeless Information Project, “Over 6,000 homeless veterans counted in communities that ‘Ended Veterans Homelessness.’ ”
“The NHIP continues to advocate for the elimination of the label of “Ending Veteran Homelessness” since it is a false notion that is contradicted by the data and represent a slap in the face to any veteran who may be experiencing homelessness in these communities.”

Here is a list of 80 communities that have been designated by HUD and promoted by the USICH as having ended homelessness show a total of 6,029 homeless veterans including 1,492 unsheltered veterans found in 64 communities.
2019 PIT homeless veteran counts

You’ll read time and again in poorly researched articles about “successes” where the writer never bothers to actually double check the veracity of what’s being claimed. 

We cannot make meaningful progress without recognizing that what we’re doing does not work and the data used by those that hold the purse strings is not accurate, poorly understood, or obfuscated for their own benefit. 


“Compassion with accountability”. Another CAN! tenet since day one.

A truly effective solution to current crisis MUST have:

A. Subject matter experts, not volunteers with ideas based off of one tiny village or one program in another state. Serving unsheltered individuals requires targeted outreach and expertise, not wishful thinking.

B. Strong program management with follow through and accountability. Concise and easily understood metrics outlining incoming funding sources and outgoing expenditures. Accurate tracking of individuals throughout Coordinated Entry from indoor/outdoor shelters to outside service providers with clear goals and immediate suspension of funding if significant reductions in unsheltered populations is not achieved within an agreed timeframe.

C. A concrete plan for “service resistant” individuals. There has to be a component to address individuals who will not help themselves with consequences for not complying. A database of repeat offenders and declined services must be logged into HMIS and that data must be available not only the City and County staff but also to the public. HIPPA is acknowledged and an individual’s privacy must be respected so any identifying information may be redacted. No more “revolving door”.

D. Qualified staff in each department responsible for whichever aspect of the plan applies to them. These must be staffed by qualified individuals who have relevant degrees or extensive background pertinent to their job requirements, and a proven track record. They are tasked with defining, structuring, and executing best practices.

E. Volunteers are welcomed and encouraged however they must not be involved in policy-making decisions or manage day-to-day operations.

F. Day-to-day operations of any sanctioned encampment should be run by competent County or City employed staff OR if a non-profit is contracted, people who have been trained or possess experience in managing operations of this type. They alone possess the authority to enforce strict rules of governance and maintain order.

G. In summation, any plan MUST have a firm end date with a clear timetable that is tracked for evidence of positive outcomes.


We know we have a huge problem on our hands in Sonoma County related to homelessness.
We’ve shown that 10s of millions of dollars are spent yearly with virtually no improvement.
We’ve shown that people who need help are not being served adequately.
We’ve shown that a small percentage of people are responsible for the majority of crimes and problems that are visible in public areas.
There’s a tremendous drain on our first responders related to this issue.
We can’t police our way out of it and we can’t spend our way out of it. 

So what DO we do?
We need more public/private partnerships.
Currently we’re handcuffed by low barrier “housing first” mandates in order to receive funding from HUD and the State. We only get the funding for “evidence-based” practices. Our pool of potential funding can be expanded if we included private sources. There is absolutely no reason we have to have funding go through the CDC.
We should have a dedicated homeless services dept with new private employees, a business analyst, strong program management, a communications/pr person, and staffed with subject matter experts.
Furthermore, the poor tracking and metrics with virtually no accountability would not be tolerated when private funding is utilized. They would demand much more transparency and accountability. Accountability has been one of CAN’s issues from day one.

We must have better information than just self-reported data.
We make policy decisions and allocate limited resources off of self-reported data in a survey of people with no ID or verification. 

With limited resources we have to prioritize those we serve. The elderly, veterans, underage youth alone, single parent families who can also verify they are residents must get priority. Why give 10 cents to everyone and barely make a dent when we can give a dollar to each and make more of an impact? 

Those who cannot demonstrate or prove that they are residents should receive transportation back to their home town where they can get back into their family and friend’s support network and utilize the system of care where they are from. 

In order to receive in-state tuition rates at a community college or university, you must prove residency.
Some County programs require ID and residency to receive help. 
These types of requirements aren’t exclusionary but necessary.

It’s not a secret among service providers and first responders that people find their way to a location known for a compassionate populace with abundant services and pleasant weather. That’s not conjecture. 

Higher barrier programs WORK.
It’s no accident that programs provided by local non-profits that have higher barriers-rules, requirements for being sober and drug free, mandatory participation in some cases, accountability, etc have track records of success.
Redwood Gospel Mission, Community Support Network, and more. 
We feel that these programs should receive more attention, support, and most importantly funding. More of the federal and state funds should be funneled to them. Again, the reason why they are not is the low barrier mandates. And again the reason we need a public/private partnership. 
These non profits have beds available, and have the entire time this crisis escalated. 
It’s been well documented that people living rough outside have repeatedly denied offers of services and shelter. The reason why is they do not want to abide by any rules. 

Work programs.
We have never once read or heard a service provider or politician mention a work program for able bodied individuals. Of course the reason why is it wouldn’t be low barrier. 
Single, able-bodied people can participate in a work program that gives them a job doing some sort of beautification of public spaces or working in a soup kitchen in exchange for taxpayer services and shelter. They must participate in their improvement. They’ll receive life skills and job training, retain some measure of dignity by being a productive member of society, and give them hope that there is support for them to continue an upward path. Everyone can get behind such a program. 

When we or anyone say the word “homeless”, we have to all agree on the definition and what specific population we’re talking about. 

There are three types of homeless.
The “CANNOTS” who are mentally ill or disabled. These comprise about 15 percent of the homeless.
These are folks who cannot help themselves and can’t make the right decisions for themselves. It is inhumane to allow them to wallow outside. This is where we need to carefully examine conservatorships, revision of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, and not pay lip service to mental health but shift funding from some of the wasteful programs.

Then there are the “HAVE NOTS” who could succeed if they were trained to acquire new skills and had access to services. These have-nots are about 42 percent of the homeless. This is where a work program of some sort and attention to life skills and job training come into play.

The third group are the “WILL NOTS” who do not want to change. Most of these are drug addicts or alcoholics. These are the most problematic of the three and the ones locally who are “service resistant”. Most don’t want the help and would rather spend their days outside doing what they want. Many people conflate this group with the other two and misunderstand the intention of CAN! thinking all we care about is enforcing the law for people who do not want to follow the law. 

We want the conversation to continue regarding how to address this problem. 



You see headlines like that frequently. Investigative journalism where there’s fact checking and verification is an endangered species.

Well first off the article is terrible. Their headline is not only misleading, but completely false. Finland has NOT ended homelessness. Helsinki, their capital, however has managed to almost entirely remove people from sleeping on the streets-“unsheltered” individuals. They are mostly in shelters or with friends/family couch surfing-“sheltered” homeless. That’s a little bit of good news yes but a far cry from “ending homelessness”.

“The result is impressive: 4 out of 5 homeless people will be able to keep their flat for a long time with “Housing First” and lead a more stable life.” OK great. Cite sources! Show me at least two studies that show, how many people were studied? How long did you observe them? What’s a “long time”?

Now Finland has had success in REDUCING UNSHELTERED HOMELESSNESS. This is an important distinction and you have to take into account that Finland is a Nordic country with a small, homogeneous population known for its strong social safety net paid for by high taxes. It’s very difficult to scale to somewhere like the US.
From 2008-2015 Finland accomplished the following: Source-
• Housing:
2 800 new apartments built / purchased for homeless people
• Services:
• 350 new professional support workers in housing social work
• Housing advice services have prevented 200 evictions per year
• Structural reforms:
• Housing First principle has been established
• Shelters have been replaced by supported housing units
• Social rehabilitation processes have been initiated
• Homelessness has decreased:
• In 2008 – 2014 the number of long-term homeless people has
decreased by 1 150 people.

Please note there are still about 2000 people in Finland who are unsheltered. Total homeless population stands at around 5500, source Wikipedia. I’ve read elsewhere as much as 7000.

Also note that there’s a much stronger emphasis on the wraparound or supportive services that go with. I can guarantee you they have a much more comprehensive program than anything anyone is doing in the US. This is key. They don’t just hand people keys to apartments. There’s comprehensive support that we just don’t do here.

Finally, concerning actually building affordable housing stock to implement “housing first”. Again because we’re talking about a Nordic country with high taxes and large social programs, you also have to remember Helsinki is unique:
“And there, the Finnish capital is fortunate. Helsinki owns 60,000 social housing units; one in seven residents live in city-owned housing. It also owns 70% of the land within the city limits, runs its own construction company, and has a current target of building 7,000 more new homes – of all categories – a year.”

“We own much of the land, we have a zoning monopoly, we run our own construction company,” says Riikka Karjalainen, senior planning officer. “That helped a lot with Housing First because simply, there is no way you will eradicate homelessness without a serious, big-picture housing policy.”

Show me a US city that owns most of the land in city limits, runs its own construction company, has about 14-15% of its population in city owned subsidized housing, and overall total taxation of its citizens at about 51%.

Lot of confusion on what exactly the point-in-time census is and what information if produces. There’s a separate survey that is done that gives the county the demographic data. 

The PIT census is simply a one-time mass head count to try and get a reasonable picture of who’s sleeping unsheltered and who is in emergency shelter, cars, etc. Typically it’s about 150-200 people comprised of volunteers, homeless service provider personnel, law enforcement, and formerly homeless advocates who help locate the most frequented areas.

The post-count survey is done by a third party contractor-Applied Survey Research. They are the ones that work with the County to train and coach the people that will give the survey. ASR has contracted with Sonoma County to do the PIT and survey since 2015.

520 randomized homeless individuals are chosen to answer the survey questions. Those that take the survey get socks. Those that give the survey are formerly homeless who are paid $7 per survey completed. Please see Appendix A, “survey methodology” in the comprehensive report.–wMZhvztvj_sv1ohGaHokIOUUQqTobsInoitJRVyUS2I

No ID or verification is asked for. They’re simply asked. Furthermore, “During the interviews, respondents were encouraged to be candid in their responses and were informed that these responses would be framed as general findings” and “The survey requested respondents’ initials and date of birth so that duplication could be avoided without compromising the respondents’ anonymity.”

While I can appreciate the desire to try and elicit reasonably factual information from people who are experiencing homelessness, we cannot take statements made without any proof to back it up and use that data to make policy and spend 10s of millions of dollars of taxpayer money. So much self-reported data doesn’t pass muster for scientific rigor and would not be acceptable yet we use this flawed survey methodology to make policy using taxpayer dollars. 

I’ve also attached for your perusal a copy of the survey used that asks the residence question. Again note that no ID or verification is asked for.

Finally, note that not all homeless advocacy groups are in lock step with HUD and the PIT census methodology.

As an example, The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty believes the PIT count is flawed in several ways.…/…/2018/10/HUD-PIT-report2017.pdf

HUD reporting requirements and definitions of sheltered and unsheltered individuals has changed through the years as well. How people are counted and in what category and classification.

We have not reduced homelessness in any meaningful way since 2015.
See the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress every year. We’ve consistently been the highest to no better than 3rd highest in our CoC category for unaccompanied homeless youth.

We’re similarly never below top 4 in overall homelessness in our respective CoC category, since 2015.…/docum…/2019-AHAR-Part-1.pdf…/docum…/2018-AHAR-Part-1.pdf…/docum…/2017-AHAR-Part-1.pdf…/docum…/2016-AHAR-Part-1.pdf…/docum…/2015-AHAR-Part-1.pdf


UPDATED COMPLETE LIST OF CITY AND COUNTY HOMELESSNESS FUNDING AND INFO. Concentration on the years 2015 to 2019. This is the beginnings locally of “housing first” and the coordinated entry system of homeless services management. A lot has changed since I first started researching and compiling data for this project. At first the focus was just on “homelessness” funding with attention paid to federal and state dollars that came through the CDC and went to programs and non-profits to combat homelessness. As I dive deeper and deeper following the money trails my focus has expanded to the behavioral health section of the County’s budget. Furthermore, the voucher program is one aspect of homeless funding that I haven’t started on yet either.

What started as a rough tally of $64M in funding in 5 years with virtually no improvement in reducing homelessness in any meaningful way, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that I’m undercounting the amount significantly. This entire project is borne out of frustration. The point is not to say that we should not devote resources to a vulnerable population. Of course we should help those in need. The problem is we are allocating 10s of millions of taxpayer dollars towards a problem with poor program management, faulty self-reported data, and low performance metrics.

News flash: This just in from Congressman Thompson’s office. Sonoma County received $88M in homeless funding last year. This was from a statement by Congressman Thompson made during a recent live town hall(Jan 2020). Someone shared the link with me and I asked to have any data from the Senator’s office to be sent to me. I provided the breakdown at the bottom.

The facts are:
– We’ve had significant attention and funding made towards reducing homelessness since 2015. Santa Rosa declared a homeless emergency in July of 2016 with bold promises and funding was doubled from previous years.

– Sonoma County declared a homeless emergency in July of 2018. Again bold promises to tackle the issue and award funding.

– A “task force” comprised of city and county leaders and other community members was formed in Nov of 2018 to be the de facto leadership body to have all homeless services and decisions under one roof. This was from an emergency meeting in Nov 2017 of both the city council and the county to address the growing homeless issue. That is the Home Sonoma Leadership Council. They are the ones that make all the strategic decisions and award the funding.

– Catholic Charities has a $1.1M contract with the city to provide the official homeless services. They have a HOST-homeless services outreach team that is tasked with engaging and offering services to the unsheltered population at places like Joe Rodota Trail. They also have a trailer with showers that parks at various places to the homeless to clean up and again engage them by offering services. Every quarterly report to the city (required) shows 100% “engagement” with individuals contacted through and placed into the Coordinate Entry System(CES). They are found by on the ground engagement by outreach workers, calls to the hotline to report locations, through the shower trailer and through the homeless services center.

– The county receives $3M+ every year from HUD for homeless services. 2015-$3M
2016-$3M 2016_CA_2016.pdf
2018-$3.7M 2018_CA_2018.pdf
2019-$3.9M –

-$1.8M from a CDBG-community development block grant. and-Neighborhood-Investment/Funding-Opportunities/CDBG/

-WPC-Whole Person Care program. $16.7M over 5 years starting in 2017. This is under the Department of Health Services Behavioral Health Division. Many programs “overlap” what segment of the population is served. It’s not just funding through the CDC that is applied to the homeless population which is why scope of my research is expanding.
An additional $3.2M was awarded in 2019. County was put under “corrective action” for low enrollment. Semi-annual reports to the state are required of analysis of program efficacy. Furthermore as recently as latest Joe Rodota Trail crisis, Jul-Dec 2019, “While the IMDT team has had limited success convincing their trail clients to accept shelter, they continue to help them access primary health and mental health care, enroll in benefits, and make better decisions that reduce recidivism and relapse.” 0DB80DBD6EA8
Sonoma County Behavioral Health Division Receives Whole Person Care Pilot Award
SONOMA COUNTY – File #: 2019-1397
Whole Person Care Basic Statistics
Sonoma WPC Application
Whole Person Care: A Mid-Point Review March 2019 WPC_PY3_Annual_Report.pdf

– HEAP-Homeless Emergency Aid Program. $14M was approved in April of this year by the Home Sonoma Leadership Council that went to 18 different non-profits for homeless services and capital awards. $2.7M was the prior year award amount. Homeless-Service-Funding-Awards/

– CESH-California Emergency Solutions Housing Program awarded us $481,447. From my notes at a Home Sonoma Leadership Council meeting. Submitted request for data for verification.

– NPLH-No Place Like Home $2B state program where we got $29M for supportive housing services. That went to 3 projects, Burbank Housing in partnership with Catholic Charities for Caritas Village, Heritage House in Napa, and a 3rd for a project slated to go in on College Ave by Danco Communities.

– We will be getting more funds from HHAP-Homeless Housing Assistance and Prevention. Signed into law July 31 2019 by Gov Newsom. Estimated preliminary allocation is approximately $3.5M.

-Partnership Healthplan of California. $4.9M. In July 2017, Partnership HealthPlan of California released a Request for Proposals to address the critical housing and housing-related needs that affect the health and overall costs of healthcare for its members. A total of $4,917,538 was designated for Sonoma County projects. See Appendix C.

-Homeless count by year in Sonoma County.
Homeless count of unsheltered people in Santa Rosa by year. This is within city limits not including unincorporated.
2019-954 Comprehensive-Report?bidId=
We’ve consistently been the highest to no better than 3rd highest in our CoC category for unaccompanied homeless youth. We’re similarly never below top 4 in overall homelessness in our respective CoC category, since 2015. We have not reduced homelessness in any meaningful way. Any statement to the contrary is playing fast and loose with the data.

Much has been made by certain politicians that we “reduced homelessness by 40%” in the past 5 years. That is absolutely not true as shown above and the following. The largest drop shown in the PIT count was from 2014 to 2015. Again remember 2015 was the start of the new bold plans to address homelessness and the adoption of Housing First and CES. What is never told is that HUD has changed over the years how people are categorized and classified as “unsheltered” or “sheltered” or “chronically homeless”.
Furthermore, a specific CoC can also alter how people are classified. HUD warns about this in their reports.

“Last year HUD promulgated regulations to further restrict the definition of what constitutes chronic homelessness, adding layers to an already complex definition (see the detailed definition in sidebar, page 2). The narrowness of this definition excludes many homeless single adults, and even more parents and children.”

Total unsheltered homeless for 2014-3309.
Total unsheltered homeless for 2015-2060.

1249 people, poof! You would then theorize that the sheltered cohort would show a corresponding jump in numbers. Unsheltered individuals put in the CES(coordinated entry system) and into Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing. This is the whole point. Get a vulnerable individual off the street and into the “system of care” and through the pipeline to safe, secure housing of some sort that is appropriate for their condition or situation.
2014. ES-570. TH-387
2015. ES-634. TH-403
This was a change of 80 more people into PSH. Where did the other 1169 people go? Nowhere. It was a change in how people are counted and classified.

I know someone is going to say that the drop is attributed to them moving to PSH-permanent supportive housing since the PIT count doesn’t include people in PSH as homeless.
Total number of PSH year-round beds in 2014-1988.
Total number of PSH year-round beds in 2015-2049.

As you can see, there was no way possible to house an additional 1169 in Sonoma County at that time. The only explanation is a change in count methodology. Period.

Here’s the funding breakdown from Congressman Thompson’s office: Federal Resources to Address Homelessness FY2019 Sum $88,419,478.
HUD-Emergency Solutions Grant
$219,283 CoC
HUD-Continuum of Care (CoC)
$3,900,000 CoC
$51,983 Sonoma County CDC
$112,874 SR Housing Authority
HUD-HOME Investment Partnerships Program
$800,000 Sonoma County CDC
HUD-HOME Investment Partnerships Program
$675,091 SR Housing Authority
HUD-Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS
$437,814 SR Housing Authority
DHS-Emergency Food and Shelter
$100,000 United Way of the Wine Country
HHS-Street Outreach Program
$150,000 Social Advocates for Youth (SAY)
HHS-Basic Center Program
$200,000 SAY
HHS-Maternity Group Home
$250,000 SAY
HUD-Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers
$39,000,000 SR Housing Authority
HUD-Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers
$42,000,000 Sonoma County CDC
VA-Grant and Per Diem Program
$845,000 Vet Resource Center
HUD-Tenant Protection Voucher Funding Awards
$115,247 SR Housing Authority

Want to know where we are headed? Let me tell you a little story about a beautiful place called Portland.

Facing more and more people suffering outside sleeping in makeshift tents under freeway overpasses, bridges, and on city streets, local leaders were alarmed at the growing humanitarian crisis. Businesses suffered loss of income from thefts, people were noticing mountains of garbage, people camped out all day downtown, declining quality of life. Skyrocketing rents and lack of affordable housing were clearly the reason why. Everyone agreed.

Portland pledged bold action in Nov of 2015, declaring a homeless emergency and allocated $30M to “cut homeless in half by 2017”.
According to the official homeless count in 2015 there were: 1887 unsheltered people and 3801 homeless overall.
Lots of talk and debate about the scope of the problem and solutions, even back almost 5 years ago.
Did Portland half homelessness in two years?

Well, no. According to the 2017 official homeless count there were:
1668 unsheltered people and 4177 homeless overall. So yes they did manage to get 219 people off the streets, for $30M. Notice though overall homeless population went up.
Also note that from Fiscal Year 2014 through Fiscal Year 2017 they spent $243M.

OK, they’re going to keep trying and spending more and more money. Clearly it’s because rents are rising faster than wages.
What happened by 2019 with so much attention and money? What did the homeless population look like with repeated, intense engagement and outreach?
According to the official 2019 homeless count there were:
2037 unsheltered people and 4015 homeless overall.

Oh and it wasn’t just NIMBY homeowners in SF that put boulders down. Oregon Dept of Transportation does it too.

Think we’ll do any better repeating the exact same pattern?

CAN! is a nonpartisan group that was formed by concerned citizens of Santa Rosa. For over a decade now, the city of Santa Rosa has be sliding into a state of growing vagrancy and infrastructure decay. From crumbling streets throughout the city that resemble roads of many 3rd world countries to trash and weeds in most public right-of-ways, to homeless encampments in and out of plain view, to transients walking the streets and loitering in places where citizens are frequently subjected to their incorrigible behavior. Living in Santa Rosa, and California in general, has become undesirable to more and more hard-working over-taxed citizens who are leaving the state in search of a place to live like CA was as recent as 15 years ago. Our mission is to gather citizens together to advocate for safety, infrastructure and to retain hardworking and dedicated citizens that care about the city and its future.