Photo & Article By: Jerral Agbayani
The Sonoma County Emergency Agency is finding possible locations to house the homeless while concerns grow over the devastating effects of COVID-19. While working together with various cities, Sonoma County officials have come up with a solution to control the capacity of shelters and moving those who are mentally and physically disabled into local hotels and monitored camps.
“Where I’m from the government is always trying to help the homeless through food banks and other services so to see this help in the US is nice to see,” says Mason Davies, a 12th grade student from the United Kingdom who shows great gratitude towards what Sonoma County is trying to accomplish. Having lived through the same crisis, Mason only hopes for good things to come out of this quarantine period and gives his best wishes for those seeking shelter.
The homeless population, which has been up 6 percent since the 2017 fires, consist of approximately 3,000 people, a major priority in parts of the county like Santa Rosa. Circumstances only worsen when it comes to the fires, which stretch across the west coast, and how they are causing evacuees to turn to local shelters. These are causing more pressure and stress on communication within the county’s officials as they scramble to keep the public safe while dealing with other problems.
Those who have potentially contracted the virus are asked to head to designated areas called Non-Congregate Sites(NCS) where they’ll have food and security provided by staff. These sites include Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Allegiance Redwoods Conference Grounds, and the Astro Hotel, three locations to house the homeless during these tough times. These services also provide COVID testing, health services, and transportation, which are all major necessities when dealing with the circumstances Sonoma County has had to endure.
I give thanks to the good communication between county officials as we head into September, it can be really hard on them and they don’t always get the right appraisal. Coronavirus is an unexpected disaster that is leaving many families in shock, so thank you for making it through during these tough times. We’re all in this together. Remember to take caution, wear a mask, and stay 6 feet apart.