ENCAMPMENT RESPONSE

The City has responded to dozens of encampments in recent years, as show on the map HERE. There are three active encampments in the City now. To report other encampments or homeless-related issues, email us at [email protected].

Encampments on Public Property

The City’s authority to address the problems posed by encampments on public property have been constrained by various court decisions. The 9th Circuit’s decision in Martin vs. Boise prohibits criminal enforcement of city-wide camping prohibitions where a city cannot offer immediately available shelter.  Various court decisions have held that homeless persons are protected in their ownership of personal property, which cannot be seized by local governments without due process even if being stored in violation of local laws.  Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance for dealing with the homeless during COVID recommends that encampments be allowed to remain in place unless adequate shelter was provided as an alternative. As a result of these types of constraints, numerous cities which have attempted to clear encampments recently have faced expensive lawsuits and resulting injunctions.  In general, courts recently considering encampment clearings have allowed them to proceed only in response to documentable health and safety risks or where substitute shelter (with adequate COVID protocols) was made available.  
 
With limited shelter space in Sonoma County, which has been further reduced due to COVID, there are often few options for shelter or housing. That’s one reason we’re building a 60-bed interim housing facility, Labath Landing, using funding through the state’s Homekey program. Information about Labath Landing is available HERE
 
Whenever we come across an encampment, we offer services to connect the campers to shelter and housing. While some refuse these services, others do take advantage of them. Click HERE to view program results. 
 
Roberts Lake Park and Ride: We have heard many concerns regarding the encampment at the Roberts Lake Park and Ride lot and its impact on neighboring businesses and residents. We acknowledge problems have occurred, including vandalism and theft. 
 
In response, the City has increased police patrols in the area, which has resulted in increased arrests and citations for illegal activity. We have installed a security camera in the camp which helps deter criminal activity. As with other encampments, we provide regular outreach services to connect those at the encampment to shelter or housing. 

Some have suggested that we simply close the Park and Ride lot. Such action could result in protracted litigation if shelter is not made available (which is currently limited), and many of those at the encampment would likely move to other locations in Rohnert Park. As show in the map HERE, encampments in recent years have existed in many parts of the City. 
 
The City recently adopted an ordinance that gives us stronger tools to address encampments. This covers numerous issues, including:
  • Better access for the public to sidewalks and bike paths
  • Reducing waste/garbage at encampments
  • Reducing risks from fires for limiting what can be stored at encampments
  • Increased tools for enforcement
For more information on this new ordinance, we encourage you to read the staff report and watch the  discussion at the July 26 City Council meeting on this topic (see Item 7C.) 

Encampments on Private Property

Private property owners are responsible for the condition of their property.  Homeless encampment-related activity, if left unchecked, can result in conditions that violate the nuisance code.  Property owners have the right to enforce no-trespassing laws on their property.  These are steps the City recommends property owners take when someone is trespassing on their property:

     1. Approach individual(s) and ask them to leave (unless it is unsafe to do so)

     2. Call Public Safety and request a response

     3. Officer will work with the property owner/representative to find ways to address the situation

These are some proactive measures owners of private property open to the public (retail, offices, etc.) can take:

     -Empower staff to address and report unauthorized vehicles and trespassing to management.

     -Provide security on-site overnight throughout the day.

     -Post property signage addressing trespassing and parking.

     -Lock and secure trash enclosures, backflows, bathrooms, and other locations where people may loiter.

     -Tow unauthorized vehicles under Vehicle Code 22658(a)(1).