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Posted on: September 3, 2020

Update on Efforts to Address Encampment at Fremont Park

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Update 9/3/20

This week, the City’s Homeless Encampment Assistance Program (HEAP) led an operation to address the encampment in Fremont Park (also known as Cancer Survivors Park). Over the past several weeks, HEAP had been monitoring conditions in the park which continued to deteriorate, raising safety concerns for persons experiencing homelessness and residing in the park, as well as to the surrounding community. The City previously took measures to address immediate fire threats caused by encampments in areas of Fremont Park, including temporarily securing the west side of the park. During that time, the City also provided sanitary facilities (with support from the County of Sonoma and in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control) and waste and sharps containers; and worked with its contracted outreach provider, Catholic Charities’ Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) to encourage individuals to relocate to safe, secure, and healthy options for shelter. Despite these actions, the growing size of the encampment, coupled with worsening conditions, prompted the City to proceed with resolving the encampment at Fremont Park.

During this week’s operation, HEAP protocols were followed. Outreach and notification to individuals residing in the park was led by HOST and the Santa Rosa Police Department (SRPD) in advance of efforts to clean and restore the area. HOST was successful is engaging 21 individuals into services, including 15 placements at the City’s Samuel L. Jones Hall Homeless Shelter and Safe Social Distancing Program at Finley, and continues to work with 6 individuals on hotel and housing options. This is in addition to 25 individuals previously placed by HOST during the City’s action to address immediate fire threats. SRPD made two arrests for drug related charges and a probation violation and facilitated the removal of two vehicles. No arrests were made for unlawful camping. Additionally, Public Works crews removed more than 200 yards of debris and Park crews will be taking steps to secure the park with temporary fencing while maintenance and cleanup is underway.

General Update 

While HEAP’s current focus has been on the encampment at Fremont Park, the team continues to work toward solutions to address homelessness across the City. The City recognize that past efforts to resolve encampments have resulted in the relocation of individuals to other areas of the community – despite City actions to mitigate relocation through outreach, engagement, and the provision of services, shelter, and housing. HEAP actively monitors and responds to encampments relative to other priorities and available resources. This includes outreach to individuals living in tent encampments as well as vehicles, trailers, and RVs. The current public health emergency coupled with HEAP operating parameters, outlined below, have impacted the City’s homeless response efforts. We share your concerns regarding encampments in the community and will respond as time and resources allow.

  • Preliminary Injunction resulting from a Federal lawsuit brought against the City and County. Per the terms of the Preliminary Injunction, prior to arrest or citation for unlawful camping, the City and County must provide individuals within the encampment with the following: reasonable notice, an opportunity to be assessed for shelter and services, access to adequate shelter, storage of belongings, and a process to appeal a denial of any disability-related requests for reasonable accommodation.
  • Sonoma County Health Officer Order No. C19-09 (see paragraph 6) - Persons experiencing homelessness are exempt from those portions of the Shelter-in-Place Order that require individuals to shelter in their place of residence. Individuals experiencing homelessness remain subject to the Order’s restrictions on public and private gatherings, travel and work activities. Individuals experiencing homelessness also remain subject to the Order’s Social Distancing and Hygiene Requirements, including requirements for facial coverings. These requirements are being addressed as resources permit.
  • Centers for Disease Control guidance, which generally advises against dispersing encampments to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In keeping with CDC guidance, the City does not disrupt encampments unless the conditions within the encampment pose significant health and safety risks. When those site-specific risks outweigh the risks of COVID spread, the City activates HEAP protocols to protect individuals living in these encampments as well as the broader community. Prior to the resolution of an encampment, the HOST works with individuals within the encampment to encourage them to relocate to safer conditions with access to needed health and social services. The City also remains in on-going communication with the Sonoma County Department of Health Services regarding COVID-19 testing of individuals within encampments.

To learn more about the City’s efforts to address homelessness during COVID-19, go HERE.

Update 08.27.20

Next week, the City’s Homeless Encampment Assistance Program (HEAP) will proceed with efforts to resolve the growing encampment in Fremont Park (also known as Cancer Survivors Park). Over the past several weeks, HEAP has been monitoring conditions in the park which continue to deteriorate, raising safety concerns for persons experiencing homelessness and residing in the park, as well as to the surrounding community. The City previously took measures to address immediate fire threats caused by encampments in areas of Fremont Park, including temporarily securing the west side of the park. Druing that time, the City also provided sanitary facilities (with support from the County of Sonoma and in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control) and waste and sharps containers; and worked with its contracted outreach provider, Catholic Charities’ Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) to encourage individuals to relocate to safe, secure, and healthy options for shelter. Despite these actions, the growing size of the encampment, coupled with worsening conditions, have prompted the City to proceed with resolving the encampment at Fremont Park. HEAP protocols will be implemented, including outreach and notification to individuals residing in the park, in advance of efforts to clean and restore the area. The City will be provide an update on its efforts following next week’s operation. To learn more about the City’s efforts to address homelessness during COVID-19, go HERE.

Update 08.07.20

Last week, the City took measures to address immediate fire threats caused by encampments in areas of Fremont Park. Park maintenance crews secured these areas of the park, and outreach and notification were provided to individuals residing in these areas. Catholic Charities’ Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) was successful in engaging 25 individuals located in the encampments into services, including placement at the City’s Samuel L. Jones Hall Homeless Shelter, Safe Social Distancing Program at Finley, hotel rooms, and permanent housing.

Though a portion of the park is now secured to mitigate the fire threat, the City is aware that many individuals remain in other areas of Fremont Park. Given the growing size of the encampment, the City has placed two additional portable toilets and a handwashing station as well as a debris bin at the park to provide increased access to sanitary facilities in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance. HOST will continue to engage individuals residing in the park over the next couple weeks to encourage individuals to transition to safe, secure and healthy options for shelter. The City’s Homeless Encampment Assistance Program (HEAP) team continues to works toward solutions to address homelessness at Fremont Park and across the City. More information on these efforts will be provided soon. For more information on the City’s efforts to address homelessness amid the public health emergency, can be found HERE

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