Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rio Nido residents clash over proposed emergency homeless shelter during contentious meeting

12.12.2008 12:30pm, Rio Nido -- Local resident & RRROC member John Uniack & Rio Nido Homeowner's Association (RNHA) chair, Doug Meisner bravely faced hordes of enraged Rio Nido residents with flaming torches & pitchforks in a largely futile attempt to present the Russian River Interfaith Coalition's (RRIC) proposal for hosting an emergency homeless shelter in the Rio Nido Fire Station.

Okay, I'm exaggerating about the flaming torches & pitchforks & unruly mob. But the 30-or-so folks who showed up -- including vacation home owners who drove all the way from San Francisco to attend the meeting -- were pretty highly outraged. Especially since RRIC representative Jan De Wald cancelled the meeting at the last minute & didn't even bother showing up.

Neighbors (including me) voiced numerous objections, including: "We're residential & aren't set up for this!"; "Why does everything get dumped on Rio Nido!"; "My house has been broken into TWICE!"; "They'll smoke cigarettes & do drugs in the parking lot!"; "Yeah, SURE it'll be 'temporary'!"; "The Interfaith Coalition doesn't even have the guts to show up!"; etc.

When things finally settled down, people asked questions & the following answers have emerged:
  • WHY RIO NIDO?: The RRIC can't find anyone in Guerneville to do it & have exhausted all their other options. St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church provided emergency shelter at Hubert Hall in Guerneville last year, but can't do it this year because financial difficulties have required them to shut down their church & hold their services at Hubert hall. The Guerneville Community Church can't do it because the Guerneville Head Start preschool is located on the premises. And I have no idea of why the Guerneville Veteran's Hall won't do it.
  • How many people would be using the shelter?: 10-15 per night.
  • When would the shelter be used: Only in the winter when the temperature goes below freezing (I'm not sure if shelter would also be offered when it rains).
  • How would they get here?: A bus will pick them up from downtown Guerneville in the evening & take them back to downtown Guerneville in the morning.
  • What measures will the RRIC take to keep Rio Nido safe?: The homeless will be bussed in & out (as explained above) & the doors will be shut for the night. A qualified & experienced social worker will be hired to provide supervision.
  • Why didn't anyone from the RRIC show up at the meeting?: They cancelled the meeting because they're having difficulties in obtaining permits from the Board of Supervisors. Hence, their proposal may be moot.
  • Who ultimately gets to decide?: The Russian River Fire Protection District (RRFPD) gets to decide because they own the Rio Nido Fire Station.
  • How many homeless people are there on the River?: Approximately 257 people. As of 2007, the Sonoma County Task Force on the Homeless counted 1974 homeless people in Sonoma County, 13% of whom are estimated to live in the Russian River area. These figures are only estimations because the homeless are difficult to count & also because of varying definitions of homelessness. As far as the emergency shelter is concerned, we're talking about the chronically homeless who've camped out along the River (behind Safeway, under the Guerneville Bridge, etc.) for years & years. According to my highly unscientific & statistically invalid head-count, I think we're looking at about 30 people who will be in need of emergency shelter. But there are also folks who are temporarily homeless, folks living in shelters, & folks who couch-surf & drift in & out of non-standard housing situations. For more information & a link to the 2007 study (formatted as a PDF) go to the Sonoma County Development Commission's FAQ about Homelessness.
SO ... where does this leave us? We'll find out at the NEXT MEETING to be held at the Guerneville Senior Center on Wednesday December 3rd at 5:30PM.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You will find that board members of RRIC are not answering to the community. That is because they are not a non profit-they are a corporation! Many board members resigned over this and money issues. RRIC is not transparent. Their staff are only line staff-none of them are licensed or have ever been actually employed at a shelter-except one -as a case manager. Be aware-Where did the money from the Sister's of Perpetual Indulgence go? In RRIC notes it states, $1,000 to the showers. The good people at Riverlane Resort who actually provided the showers did not receive any money. Last year no staff had background checks. ASK QUESTIONS