How many people are homeless in Rohnert Park?

On any given night, there are an estimated 248 individuals experiencing homelessness in Rohnert Park. In the entire County, there are 2,745 individuals experiencing homeless on any given night. To learn more about the demographics of individuals experiencing homeless, see the Sonoma County 2020 Homeless Census and Survey.

What is the City doing to address homelessness in our community?

Learn more about what the City is doing to address homeless by clicking on the “Homelessness” main page.

It seems like there are more homeless people in Rohnert Park now. Is that true?

Based on the annual Homeless Survey, the number of homeless individuals in Rohnert Park at any one time has increased from about 45 people in 2015 to 248 in recent years. Due to increased development, staff presence in the creeks to address water quality, and the completion of the SMART train tracks, homeless individuals may be moving to different parts of the city, which can make them more visible. According to the 2020 Homeless Survey, Rohnert Park has around 9% of the County's overall homeless population. This is similar to Rohnert Park's general population compared to the Sonoma County general population, which, per 2019 census data, is around 8.9%.

Is Rohnert Park attracting homeless people from out of the area?

There is no evidence that Rohnert Park is attracting homeless individuals from out of the area. The 2020 Homeless Survey showed that 88% of homeless individuals were already living in Sonoma County when they became homeless, and 64% have lived here for ten or more years. Rohnert Park does not have homeless services such as emergency shelters or day centers, which are often accessed by those experiencing homelessness.

It seems like a lot of homeless individuals are choosing to be homeless and don’t want housing. Is that true?

While there are some who may never want to move into housing, 84% of individuals experiencing homelessness report that they would gladly accept affordable permanent housing if it became available (see 2020 Homeless Survey.) The reality is that, for most, affordable housing – often with supportive services they need to remain safely housed – is not available to them.

Why has there been an increase in homelessness in the US?

There are many reasons. Two of the main ones: Wages have not kept up with the rising cost of housing for lower-income people, and many people who end up homeless lack safety nets. People living in RVs and cars —a population that probably at one point had stable housing but lost it for various reasons — make up one of the biggest parts of the recent increase nationally.

Why does California have the largest homeless population in the nation?

California has 12% of the overall U.S. population, but about 27% of the nation’s homeless population (about 150,000 total). The cost and lack of housing is a primary reason. If people lose their housing, it is much harder to find another place to live in California, which is short millions of housing units. California’s population is the largest in the United States as well. A 2018 study by Zillow Research showed that homelessness increases more rapidly where rent exceeds a third of their income. Between 2013 and 2018, renters in Rohnert Park were paying an average of 39% of their income on rent. Per the Zillow study, as of 2018, renters in Santa Rosa were paying an average of 43.7% of their income towards rent.

How are the City and the County working together to address homelessness?

The Continuum of Care is the County’s homeless services system of care and provides mostly state funding to local non-profits for services related to homelessness. Rohnert Park’s Assistant City Manager, Don Schwartz, sits on the Continuum of Care Board, which makes most funding decisions for funds allocated County-wide.  

You can learn more about the Continuum of Care here.

Does Rohnert Park have a homeless shelter? Has a homeless person ever been turned away from the shelter due to lack of space?

Rohnert Park does not have a homeless shelter and refers individuals to services and shelters in Santa Rosa and Petaluma, which are often full with waitlists. There are year-round shelter beds available for about 23% of the individuals experiencing homeless in Sonoma County, leaving 77% unsheltered most of the year. In the winter, shelters expand their capacity and can shelter about 33% of those experiencing homelessness.

Do homeless individuals have access to facilities such as restrooms and showers in the City?

While homeless individuals are able to access public restrooms at the parks or library during open hours, the City does not have facilities with public showers other than the Sports Center, which is open to members of the public for a fee. The City does not operate any 24-hour restrooms.

What should I do if a homeless individual is on or near my property?

If a homeless individual – or any individual – is on your private home property and was not invited by you, they are trespassing and you should contact Public Safety to assist in removing them. If you see homeless individual on public property and they are not breaking any laws, they are allowed to be there. While it is not acceptable for anyone to break any laws, being homeless is not a crime and homeless individuals enjoy the same rights as any other residents.

 

How can I help?

Learn more about how you can help by clicking on the “How to Help” page.

What is the City doing to improve access to services for people with behavioral health and substance use needs?

The City is partnering with Catholic Charities, a non-profit focused on helping people experiencing homelessness. Catholic Charities has an outreach team which regularly visits encampments and offers services to individuals there, which may include substance use and mental health support. Unfortunately, in Sonoma County, there are not sufficient mental health and substance use services available to adequately meet the need.

Are people allowed to camp in the parks, along the creeks, or in other areas of the city?

City parks are closed at night, so no one should be in them overnight. Creeks are protected waterways, and state law prohibits anyone from depositing trash or debris within 150 feet of them. For this reason, people cannot set up camps within 150 feet of the creeks or do anything that may result in trash getting in the waterway. Beyond parks and creeks, the City can require people to move if they are interfering with the public’s use of a public facility (such as blocking a sidewalk), however, the City cannot prohibit individuals from sleeping on public property. If an encampment on public land is causing health and safety issues, the City can post a 72 hour notice, remove belongings left behind and do a camp clean-up. In these cases, the City stores valuable belongings for 90 days so that the owners have the opportunity to retrieve them.

Can the City designate areas for homeless encampments?

Designated homeless encampments are challenging for cities to implement and operate. They often require substantial funding to provide restrooms, trash pick-up and security, and it can be difficult to find locations to host them. Additionally, they do not lead to permanent housing.

How does the City measure the success of its efforts, including that of its contractors?

The City requires Catholic Charities and SHARE to provide quarterly reports for the programs funded through the City. The reports detail how many people have been served and housed through the program and, of those housed, what percentage kept their housing after assistance ended. Additionally, the City has a Homeless Taskforce made up of City staff that meet weekly to discuss through the most effective and ways to address homelessness in our community. Catholic Charities Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) participates in the weekly Homeless Taskforce meetings.

 

Are homeless individuals allowed to “hang out” in the parks and downtown area?

If you see homeless individuals in public places and they are not breaking any laws, they are allowed to be there. While it is not acceptable for anyone to break any laws, being homeless is not a crime and homeless individuals have the same rights as any other resident. If anyone is dumping trash, or interfering with your use of a park, path, sidewalk, or other facilities, call Public Safety.