St. Vincent de Paul’s efforts to help people – January 30,2022 comments

In the sixth paragraph of the front page January 30 article of the Press Democrat the Society of St. Vincent De Paul of Sonoma County organization is characterized as a “slumlord”. Although the article has elements of facts, the way that the local media presented this was unfair and out of context. As the leading media in Sonoma County the Press Democrat has to be held to the same standards a legitimate media company holds the government and the rest of the community to.  In this instance they failed.

Attachments below:  SVDP document “SVDP Commons Acquisition”  (this is a clear explanation)


The characterization of St. Vincent De Paul of Sonoma County is disrespectful and out of context and therefore inaccurate. The St. Vincent De Paul of Sonoma County organization has been around for many decades, 64 years. In the mid-1980s, when no one else could feed the hungry in Santa Rosa, two people came in: Larry Ferlazzo and Linda Rayner, using the name of the Catholic Worker Organization and started feeding people out of the back of their van. As downtown businesses were concerned about the situation of hunger among the homeless, and disorganization among the service providers, they turned to the Bishop of the Diocese of Santa Rosa. The Bishop of the Diocese of Santa Rosa turned around and asked the St. Vincent De Paul organization to feed the hungry. The Diocese of Santa Rosa provided $500,000 as the foundation for what became known as the St. Vincent De Paul Dining Room. For at least 35 years this organization has been paramount to how we treat people in poverty. Even today, when Catholic Charities needed a temporary location for the Santa Rosa Homeless Services Center, SVDP allowed the primary homeless services in Santa Rosa to be housed at 610 Wilson Street, and the dining room services have changed.

Throughout this time the St. Vincent De Paul organization has run the thrift store in Rohnert Park where they clothed people like no one else in the community. For at least 10 years, if not more, the County of Sonoma has been able to send people to St. Vincent De Paul in Rohnert Park with a clothing voucher where people could pick out two sets of clothes. Other organizations have had similar arrangements but it’s only St. Vincent De Paul who has reached out to the Human Service Department and actively engaged to allow people to come and get free clothes in this manner.

When the County needed an organization with the capacity to house people after the situation at the Joe Rodota Trail they turned to St. Vincent De Paul to run the Los Guillicos Village which Jack Tibbetts and Chris Grabill led quite successfully. The people of Oakmont and the Press Democrat can review the activities surrounding this facility and acknowledged that the County and St. Vincent De Paul have responded well in that situation.

In the “COVID world” it was St. Vincent De Paul who stepped up early to run one of the two trailer encampments that are currently at the fairgrounds. Those locations have housed people with more compassion and more practical implementation than anyone else in the county. We should also fairly cite the DEMA organization or other shelter providers in this effort as well.  The actual day-to-day support of the vulnerable individuals at the fairground trailer location has been exemplary and reflects the St. Vincent De Paul organization and staff in how they compassionately work with people.

The documentation and series of events which St. Vincent De Paul has now been called upon to release to the community further validates their position of compassion and practical know-how in serving the most of vulnerable people who live in our community. St. Vincent De Paul should be lauded and funded in such a way that they can continue this important work.   I invite anyone to read the correspondence which St. Vincent De Paul is now making available and judge, NO not “judge”, but think for themselves and figure out a way that each person reading can help to make things better.


Further ways to look at the Homelessness Service system

If the media is going to quote Mr. Tibbetts salary, they should quote salary next time for Burbank Housing ($200,000).  How about the director of Midpen at $500,000?  How about the salary of members of the BOS?  To imply that Mr. Tibbetts is paid highly by quoting $100,000 is absurd, unless we are going to quote the salaries of other non-profit directors.  In this same process, we will find out the Catholic Charities salaries are very low in comparison.  It is important for transparency and public understanding that the details be widely shared so the system as a whole can be understood.

The media should cite the estimated costs of this project (Under $20 million) versus other construction of 54 units which would be $27-32 million? 

I do not recall the PD analyzing the “millions in public dollars” that other non-profits get.  This is not a slam at the non-profit organizations we have.  Our community, and our municipalities rely on having a variety of non-governmental organizations to deliver direct services, and to assure flexibility as conditions change.  It is a disservice to provide inadequate compensation for the many fine professionals who do this work.  We should remember that quality service costs money because people are devoting their lives and their livelihoods to achieve solutions. 

Another key question for the media and community to ask about the services to help people who are without an affordable home – “How typical are these problems?”  Do we seek knowledge and understanding of the problems at the same level at facilities run by other shelter and supportive housing environments?  The answer to that is “yes” but in different ways.  We all have to be wondering if whatever is going on at Gold Coin is just the way it is in a poor social system.

Solutions are elusive, but transparency and respect lead to discussions and dialogue. Dialogue leads to plans and plans can achieve measurable results.  A review of page 7 of the recent Upstream Investments Portrait of Sonoma is a current example of long term efforts yielding actual positive results.    

I would say to all the media, while you are pursuing all this, be sure to articulate how the community is planning for returning the people to the streets who are currently in the County owned trailers on County Fairgrounds property.  We can be sure the plan will expect SVDP to open those refurbished doors as soon as it happens. 



(received from Jack Tibbetts, 1/28/22)

From the outset, the goal of St. Vincent de Paul has been to prevent any and all displacements and ‘returns to homelessness’, while also moving forward with a complete remodel/rehabilitation of the property for the purposes of permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless.

When St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) was in escrow to buy the property “the Gold Coin,” we were told that there were no residents in the property disclosures, only hotel guests. To verify this, we hired Autotemp Consulting, a housing and relocation group with housing attorneys on staff, who sent in an independent third party to verify this claim and conduct relocation interviews. We knew at the time that the relocation of residents would be costly and complex. What we discovered was that the facility had been red tagged (we can show the document upon request and you will notice it was issued prior to our taking ownership) by the city due to substandard living conditions and numerous health, safety, and building code violations that was being experienced by about 13 households. These people had been living there continuously for months, or in most cases, years. More disturbing, we found out during the investigation that the sellers had begun illegally evicting people, without providing the required assistance, to avoid losing the sale. At this point, we as an organization had a choice to make:

1.) We could forego intervening in the evictions. The sellers would carry all legal and financial liability, and we would not incur the relocation expenses during construction that we estimated at the time to range from a minimum of $225,000 to $350,000, nor the cost for repair, operations, and maintenance. OR

2.) We could offer people continued residence, and we could seek and find the people who were evicted into homelessness and offer them a place if they wished to return, and work to identify funding to sustain the effort as moved along during the development process.

Of course, we picked the second option. I (Jack) went out and found the parties that were evicted and offered them a space in units that met basic health and safety standards if they wished to come back. One did, one did not. The group that wished to come back was the family in Room One (we found them living in their car). There were a couple others I could not make contact with after repeated attempts. The other mother and child I was able to contact found alternate residence with family in Lake County, and we offered financial assistance as added support to aid in her transition, which they accepted. Luckily, the remaining tenants were not yet evicted, so we held a community meeting and notified them all that we would begin repairing their units to meet basic code requirements, and we would also make investments in interior and exterior finishes (we did this while still in escrow and assumed the financial risk of beginning the repairs). While repairs were being made, we expended $8,000 on temporary hotel stays so people, like the folks in Room One, would not be homeless.

Right after close of escrow, we took title to the property and we continued to work on the units that were occupied, as well as a few additional rooms in case we needed to move people around. At that time (December 20th , 2019), St Vincent immediately began working with City of Santa Rosa Code Enforcement and Housing Authority staff to find a path to achieving temporary occupancy and improving the units to meet minimum health and safety standards, so that the red tag could be lifted. We did this acknowledging that the property was in need of a total overhaul and remodel to meet St. Vincent de Paul standards. At that same time, SVDP also began working with our architect and engineer to develop plans for the full remodel, and we continued to raise the funds necessary to achieve it.

Understanding the design, development, review, and permitting process can be extremely complex and lengthy, SVDP worked with the City of Santa Rosa to establish temporary occupancy in the interim to prevent displacement of the residents, and this was successfully achieved shortly after acquisition. The city took the fair step of “yellow-tagging” the units, which meant they were safe for occupancy, but would remain under continued code enforcement surveillance by the city. I believe they did this to ensure we were actively pursuing redevelopment, which we did, so they continued to monitor the situation and continued to repeatedly certify the units for occupancy. They approved occupancy for all of the units that are inhabited by residents today.

Some of the repairs that were conducted include: repairing drywall, repairing and replacing of aging gas lines, application of fresh paint to interior walls and ceilings, replace water heaters and bathroom fixtures, provision of new beds and furnishings, provision of kitchenette appliances, repair of heating units, clearing of debris from the units and the property (roughly 10 debris bins worth), repair of windows and doors, installation of a mini-split heating and cooling system to meet health and safety code, and we conducted some minor landscaping and established a community garden plot. Finally, we repaired and replaced all smoke detectors and installed carbon monoxide alarms. Subsequently, the units were inspected by Santa Rosa Code Enforcement and the Fire Marshall and were approved for ongoing temporary occupancy during development.

To help curb the crime that was a regular occurrence there, we hired a security firm and paid them $34,466 to-date to provide nightly patrols. SVDP also hired Clark Pest Control for interior treatments, exterior trapping, and ongoing pest management services, and has spent $3,425 to mitigate ongoing pest concerns. These services continue and have been made available as requested by residents. (The documentation of all pest management services is available, as are denied access to some residents’ units to conduct pest control in units that have a lot of belongings. We also have documentation of conversations with certain residents about clearing debris from their units to prevent continued infestation in our Manager’s Log).

After the initial inspections by the City of Santa Rosa during escrow, inspections were performed again to renew the temporary occupancy certificate for each occupied unit. The dates of inspections occurred in February 2019, October 2019, December 2019, August 2020, 3 and again in August 2021. (These inspections were documented by Santa Rosa staff Cindy Shalich, Mark Maystrovich, and David Gouin).

During this same time, Saint Vincent de Paul achieved a swift zoning clearance (under assembly bill 2162) for the property to allow for the planned future use of permanent supportive housing, and SVDP began the permitting process with the City of Santa Rosa for a complete remodel and rehab of the property to meet all current code requirements and significantly improve the quality and appearance of the property. After a lengthy 11-month review of our submitted plans, we finally received approved building permits at the end of September 2021, and the last of the fire Marshall’s required changes were approved as of December 1, 2021. We are now clear to begin construction. The project is now “shovel ready” – it is just awaiting final funding from Homekey2.

It is relevant to note that during the first six months of our ownership, we did not charge any resident rent at the Gold Coin. We did this, for two reasons: First, we knew we could not in good conscious charge people for living there in the condition in which we inherited it – not until we invested in basic renovations. Second, there were a couple of parties who were not working, had no income, and could not pay rent. Once the basic renovations were completed in June of 2019, we began charging rents consistent with HUD’s regional standards for the Extremely Lowincome category, and consistent with our HEAP deed-restriction. Additionally, we never have charged for internet, TV, or utilities.

Studios are charged a flat rent rate of $568 per month, and the occupied two-bedroom (Room One – [NAME3]) is being charged a flat rate of $720 per month. Every party at the Gold Coin paid less under our ownership than the previous, with the exception of [NAME4] who was charged $400 per month by the previous owner, because he had an informal agreement with the previous owner to work at the Thai Restaurant in exchange for reduced rent. Other than [NAME4], the next lowest rate was charged to [NAME5] ($600), [NAME6] ($700), [NAME7] ($800), [NAME8] and [NAME9] ($1,100), [NAME3] ($1,200), [NAME10] and [NAME11] ($1,140), and [NAME2] and [NAME1] ($1,600). As you can see, not only did conditions at the Gold Coin improve, but rents were also reduced and, in many cases, reduced by roughly 50%.

For people who could not pay, we offered them employment. [NAME2] was hired to work at one of our shelters earning $19.00 per hour, [NAME8] was hired to do maintenance at the property, and [NAMEX] was hired to aid with maintenance and landscaping around the property. [NAMEX] has since found alternate income and [nameX] does not work for us any longer, and [confidential].  Many residents have also accrued debts, including [name], which we have never acted on.

We push for compliance, and we have gotten people on partial payment plans. We have also worked with the County COVID rent relief program to help people get current. We take every action possible to avoid eviction. Eviction is not who we are. As of April, 2021, [NAME2] was 4 in arrears $4,158 (roughly 8 months’ rent), but is thankfully now current due to the COVID program, which our property manager arranged. [NAME3] was paying small portions at a time as she could, [NAME6] was in arrears $8,338 (roughly 14 months), [NAME5] is in arrears $12,350 (roughly 19 months), and [NAME8] and [NAME9] are currently in arrears $6,499 for 12 months. The only person we have removed from the property is [NAME6], because after many documented attempts and posted notices to get him to sign a lease, he continually evaded us and was unresponsive. He just never signed a lease to become a tenant. Therefore, he was not evicted. His belongings were removed for trespass. Further, it was determined he had stopped living in the units for months, he began living with his girlfriend off-site, and was just using his room as a personal storage unit. We have documentation to back up all of these claims that proves we made every effort to bring [NAME6] into compliance.

Rents are not meant to sustain the temporary housing operation. Because of these unforeseen tenant occupancies, SVDP has expended $243,925 on operations ($22,534 of which was spent on direct resident aid) but have only received a total of $85,424 in rents since we began charging in June. We have also invested an additional $251,865 on direct expenses for renovation, repair, and maintenance. These costs do not include all of the permitting and predevelopment expenses which totals $361,930. All expenditures on this project made to-date are above $1,635,866.


Throughout the pandemic, SVDP has made every effort to comply with all Covid safety protocols, shelter in place guidelines, and moratoriums on evictions, etc. The pandemic has been extremely challenging for our staff and especially the people we serve, who often experience intense behavioral health, substance abuse, and trauma-related challenges. St Vincent has offered masks, food, Safeway gift cards, holiday gifts and gift cards, and coordinated visits by Sonoma County public health workers for access testing/prevention/vaccine clinics. Across our different facilities, St Vincent has been proud to have some of the highest vaccine rates, and lowest case rates of any provider in the state. No Residents were evicted for hoarding/compliance challenges. Previous to COVID, we conducted preemptive noticed annual inspections, in addition to doing inspections in response to resident needs, or code enforcement complaints. During COVID, it became our policy to only conducting inspections upon request by residents and to follow all public health guidelines and recommendations. Despite COVID, annual inspections of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors were completed, and in-person staff responses still occurred, as you will see in our Manager’s Log.

A few of our residents do struggle with hoarding and behavioral health related issues which can seriously affect the ongoing everyday maintenance and cleanliness of units. St Vincent staff has worked with these residents on an ongoing basis to remove trash and debris as permitted by Covid protocols, with proper notice given, and with the understanding that for these residents who struggle with hoarding and behavioral health challenges. Attempts must be made to work with them to achieve compliance with fire safety codes, while also preventing any and all displacement or returns to homelessness. The frequency of in-person interactions and interior inspections/staff observations have been much less frequent due to Covid safety concerns, but still occurring as you will see in our Manager’s Log. Any and all issues reported to St Vincent via residents are addressed as quickly as possible. On a few occasions, our staff has worked with the tenants to remove trash and debris from in and around their units.

Ongoing challenges such as hoarding and pest management have often been addressed by St Vincent without prompting or complaint. In many cases St Vincent has had to give notice to initiate work or fire alarm inspections after residents have repeatedly declined us access. On 7/30/21, a resident who was experiencing a mental health crisis started yelling and screaming and threatening the repairman and staff who were attempting to repair a broken window after we gave notice to make repairs to the windows of the unit, so the work was postponed, and further notices were posted and met with continual denial of entry (see log).

The site has also experienced a recent surge in vandalism by outside actors, and St Vincent is working to repair these damages as they occur. One man who is the nephew of the previous owners, but is not a resident, has been returning to vandalize the property. He suffers from significant mental health challenges. To address this, we have increased private security patrols and are working with both the police and security to prevent further disruption to the property and its residents. (Prior to receiving the PD’s email inquiry, St. Vincent had given 48-hour notice to residents for scheduled fire safety/occupancy inspections to begin on Sunday 1/23/22, and additional inspections were scheduled with City of Santa Rosa Code Enforcement, for all occupied units, to occur on January 28th, 2022. St Vincent is addressing any and all issues observed. An inspection report from 1/23/2022 is available.

The reality is, sometimes it is difficult to get residents to comply with our requests to remove debris from their rooms, or allow for inspections, until they see that the city inspectors are coming and could red tag the units, forcing their eviction. Why? We believe it is because they also know that we will seek to address their hoarding issues, so the inspections can be seen by residents as a causal factor to them to lose valued belongings. However, we must do it, because the presence of over-abundant debris increases the chances of rodent infestation and/or mold. Understanding this, we have offered temporary storage of belongings in separate, unoccupied, rooms. We extended this offer to [NAME2] as well as the [NAME3] Family in the past.

Development, Relocation, & Recent Complaints

Throughout the development and permitting process, St Vincent has offered nicer and bigger renovated units to any resident with special needs or requests. Many of our residents have accepted offers to move to nicer freshly painted units on site, such as one resident who was undergoing chemotherapy and needed a ground floor unit and a new larger bed, and another resident who wanted to move upstairs to a freshly repaired unit with a full cooktop/oven. In this 6 individual’s case, we also availed her with resources for palliative care. Sadly, she has since passed away at the hospital at the end of her treatment.

One resident, [NAME2], communicated to St Vincent in May 2021 that she would like assistance in obtaining a housing voucher and COVID rental assistance. St Vincent helped and facilitated a connection to a Housing Authority representative, Cindy Schalich. Ms. Schalick offered rental assistance, but in order to receive it, Ms. Schalick instructed [NAME2] to move next door to an eligible room that had two sinks, thus meeting the definition of an efficiency unit making it eligible for assistance. Unfortunately, [NAME2] communicated that she did not want to move, and did not understand why she couldn’t obtain the assistance in her current unit. It was also explained to her that, upon receiving a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, she would have to move to the efficiency unit at that time. To help [NAME2] obtain the assistance and voucher, SVDP staff even offered to allow her to temporarily use of her current unit to store her belongings while she moved into the qualifying unit next door on her own time (city staff deemed both units suitable for occupancy).

However, in the presence of city staff, [NAME2] declined the offer to move next-door to the nicer efficiency unit and decided to stay in her existing unit which, which resulted in her being denied rental assistance by the city. Despite this, SVDP still did not evict. A couple of months later, we were able to pivot to the County rental assistance program, and she was helped. I, Jack, seldom communicate with [NAME2], but after hearing this, I emailed her imploring her to reconsider the opportunity she was foregoing. (This refusal was documented by city code enforcement officer Cindy Schalich, and we have emails from myself to [NAME2] encouraging her to accept the new unit for voucher eligibility that we can make available to you). [NAME2] is now on the Section 8 Housing Voucher waiting list.

Next (Final) Steps in the Stage II Construction and Major Renovations Phase

In partnership with Autotemp Consulting, we have recently held a community meeting and completed interviews with all residents and concluded a two-month period of open comment that began on January 10th, 2022. During this two-month period, no comments from residents were received. Additionally, a resident meeting was held and feedback from residents was collected, in accordance with the relocation process, to prepare for the start of construction and renovation. In these interviews, meetings, and comment period, all residents were given education/tutorial on their legal rights under the Federal Housing Relocation Act, and our estimated plans for construction timeline in 2022.

During this open comment period, no repair needs were communicated to SVDP by residents. In early December 2021, we did receive three requests for pest services in three different units – Clark pest control was notified immediately and performed full interior treatments on 12/16/2021 in these three units according to their pest assessments. During that same period, we increased the volume of bait stations/traps/treatments throughout the property to further prevent pests. No further complaints or requests for services were received. (All pest management invoices will be provided upon request).

If desired, we can provide you with our relocation plan, relocation assistance narrative, and development plan. These documents are also available in our submittal packet for the Homekey2 HCD Grant. We expect to begin construction as soon as possible after approval of Homekey funding. If approved, our signed contractor, Martinez Construction, is ready to mobilize within 60 days. In the unlikely event that we are not eligible for HCD funding (we fully expect to be funded based on the projects’ score, which is already the highest in our funding region – higher than all other applicants – already approved or pending), we will immediately resume construction loan financing as we had originally intended before the ‘notice of funding availability’ was released for Homekey2. We never planned to apply for Homekey, because we were so far down the underwriting path with Summit State Bank that we just continued on that path until we were approached by the City of Santa Rosa Planning Staff who asked that we apply as their nonprofit partner. We determined that applying for Homekey2 funding would benefit the timeline and quality of the project with more voucher income that could be reinvested into supportive services, so we accepted the City’s offer and have been working through the application process with them.

Final submittal is expected the week of 1/24, and HCD is required to begin releasing funds 45 days after submittal, per their own internal deadline. Appropriate notice will be given to all residents, and their rights will be honored regarding relocation benefits, and prevention of displacement and ‘returns to homelessness’ are paramount.

When we acquired the property at 2400 Mendocino Ave., our main goal was a swift construction timeline and full occupancy, to serve those most in need. And although our project has progressed much faster than other similar projects. It has been frustrating to experience the lengthy permitting and approval process even for a motel rehab, which we largely attribute to COVID closures/reduced hours of the Planning Department.

In the interim, we have worked with residents on ongoing maintenance and repairs to maintain the temporary occupancy certificate according to Santa Rosa City Code Enforcement requirements. We also raised funds for the immediate repairs and initial renovation of the units in the two-story tenplex, which has received significant investment. We wholeheartedly acknowledge that this property is in urgent need of a full remodel and rehabilitation, and SVDP has made every effort to expedite this process for our residents, our donors, and the community. But until construction is completed, our priority has been to bring back those who were wrongfully evicted, or faced eviction, by the previous owner, and prevent more chronic homelessness. This process has been truly challenging, and the outcome will be worth it when chronically homeless individuals will finally have a permanent home. Additionally, we currently have clients at Los Guilicos Village with active vouchers, who have been unable to find placement and are in limbo, due to what we expect is unspoken voucher discrimination and stigma.

In addition to the funding we are seeking from HCD, we were recently approved by the Continuum of Care for $308,000 in recurring annual funding for permanent supportive services, which will provide a solid foundation for abundant wraparound services for the residents. 8 Voucher income we receive will further strengthen our services budget. Voucher income is projected to bring in an additional $340,000, for a total operating budget of roughly $571,300 per year.

Our project is coming together and is in its final stretch. If approved by HCD, it should take roughly 8- months until permanent occupancy. We look forward to having more permanent homes available, specifically for these folks who have worked hard to survive and persist through their struggles, obtain good vouchers, and try to find a better life for themselves.

I hope this background provides a strong context for you that underscores the unplanned difficulties we’ve experienced, but also emphasizes the efforts we have made to create a habitable and consistent living environment for the residents until they can return to the final development. Since our discovery that was made while in escrow, we have made every effort to elevate their situation from what it was and uphold our commitment to the existing residents, as well as completing the project so that more chronically homeless people can benefit, also. We believe we have significantly improved their situation, but we have never abandoned our promise to complete Phase II, which is the standards we hold ourselves to.

Should you want any documentation to prove our claims, we can provide you with the following:

• City’s red tag document that was issued to the previous owners that our efforts and investment while in escrow countered;

• Organization financials showing the funds expended on interim renovations;

• Funds expended on operations to provide basic support for the residents and complex oversight;

• Documentation showing maintenance, repairs, and pest control we have conducted upon request of residents, or upon our own volition, based on our own observations;

• All noticing to residents of inspections;

• Documented interactions with residents where we have communicated health and safety issues they need to uphold, including hoarding and trash abatement;

• Documented interactions where we have been denied access or experienced hostility from residents that left us with one option: eviction, but we declined given their eventual return to homeless, and at a time clouded by the pandemic;

• Documentation of multiple attempts made to communicate with [NAME10] to get him to obtain a lease, as well as proper certified noticing to evict;

• Documentation of rents paid to the previous owners, versus current rates charged, based on HUD’s Extremely low-income category (the lowest possible);

• Documentation from the City of Santa Rosa passing repeated inspections;

• Email documentation with residents that encourage positive outcomes, such as how to obtain housing vouchers;

• Partial payment plans given to residents to help them get current at rates they can afford, in order to avoid eviction, but help SVDP offer universal application of rent rules, as outlined in the lease agreements, to meet the requirements of state law (e.g. any rent leniency offered to one tenant must be offered to all);

• Communications with public health officers to coordinate COVID testing;

• Signed tenant agreements highlighting their affirmation to adhere to community rules and guidelines, including their requirement to notify us of health and safety issues for immediate remediation, such as mold and pest infestation.

If you have heard a complaint from a resident, it is likely that we can provide evidence of steps we took to address their needs, so please don’t hesitate to ask. We will transparently provide what we have. We strongly believe we have always acted in good faith with our residents every day since we purchased the property. We believe our actions, as evidenced above, are the not the actions taken (or, rather, not taken) by absentee, neglectful, or predatory landlords. We do our best to be responsive to the needs of our residents as they come up. We have always taken actions to proactively address their health and safety when reported to us or discovered by our staff. We have expended significant funds on the property to improve it, despite the fact that our repairs will be torn up during the final renovation phase and redone. We have been accommodating to numerous and ongoing lease violations, including failure to pay – some failures to pay have extended for up to two years. When residents couldn’t pay, we either offered to provide employment and/or connected them with resources such as the COVID rental assistance fund or Housing Choice Voucher waitlist. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we have pushed our architect, engineers, the city, our donors, contractor, community partners, and ourselves to expedite the Phase II renovation as quickly as possible. No time has been wasted in that pursuit.

I hope that this information accurately, fairly, and transparently communicates to you how we have approached this situation. Given the constraints, we have done our best to improve the residents’ living situation from the one we inherited three years ago, and we remain committed to getting them the completed project we’ve promised.

Sincerely, Jack Tibbetts Executive Director, St. Vincent de Paul


Sonoma County Post Non Congregate Housing Planning June 6. 2020 ideas

Post Non Congregate Housing Planning
June 6, 2020

I wrote this before the County proposed their ideas for Tuesday. I think/hope it compliments the new ides for July 7. I especially like the lowest cost option Norton Hall in Attachment 5, of Item 34

This is an important and complex issue. It seems that the actual and most viable approach would be to develop a comprehensive plan using the existing homeless service providers and the existing behavioral health residential providers and develop a thoughtful integrated and transparent strategy which those organizations staff and maintain over time.

The key questions that need to be answered are:
• How many people are we trying to secure stable housing for?
• How much rent can people afford to pay given their disability payments?
• What kind of supportive services are available in the present structure that could be extended to these residences?
• Can a viable public-private partnership step up to solve the housing problem for the most vulnerable people right now?
• What agencies or contacts should develop this plan?

The needed housing to disband the non congregate shelters includes:

80 people from Sonoma State University
60 people from the Los Guillicos encampment
30 people from the Astro Motel
20 people at the trailers at the fairgrounds
60 people from the Finley Center
50 people from the Sandman Motel

300 => This is a real opportunity to help the most vulnerable high needs homeless because now all of these people are known to the system along with what their needs are and they are all in the same place, NCS.

It is critical to remember that 300 is only 10% of the total homeless population of Sonoma County. Yet, the 3,000 homeless people are only 3% of the 95,000 people in the county who live on Social Security, SSDI and SSI in Sonoma County.

Input to Planning

It would be useful to solicit input from all the agencies in this space. CDC Home Sonoma has all of their contact information. In addition, the advocacy groups such as Homeless Action! and CANS and the Squeaky Wheel Coalition could be offered the opportunity to give ideas. It will be crucial that the business and investment community, represented through the Economic Development Board, take ownership of this problem.

I believe going through these processes will generate viable ideas, and, more importantly, draw support because input was solicited. Inviting input in this new way may invite concurrence as we move forward and avoid public disgruntlement. If we give people a chance to weigh in, they are far less likely to throw weight around later if the solutions are not to their liking.

Process ideas
I think a well done Survey Monkey would be convenient and effective. Survey Monkey results are easy to aggregate and share.


The possible locations for moving people are limited. One of the problems that has plagued homeless services in Sonoma County has been the need to increase the occupancy of the main shelters at Sam Jones and Mary Isaac center particularly in the winter. This is not viable if we are moving to a permanent affordable resolution.

In the NCS circumstances we now have the most vulnerable people in our project and we should take advantage of this because we know the most vulnerable people are the most expensive users of services. Good planning for them now is assumed to save money in the long run. We should be able to address this as a justification for placing people in more stable housing.

A key consideration in creating long-term stable encampments (most refer to this as the indoor outdoor shelter) is the level of security and oversight which is currently in place. The fact that it is been determined to be necessary in these instances to have fences and full-time staff and full time security personnel as well as very strict residence guidelines, such as curfews, is a cost factor. A key question is – Can a shelter be operated simply by the staff without the necessity for the fencing and the security guards? Can we respect people’s rights as adults to self determination?

Also, at the end of this NCS, the actual costs will be very well articulated because we just spent that money in current situation. We can compare the costs of the various NCS sites.

The available locations (considerations)

If the county is insistent on using existing County property the identified property from the inventories done over the last couple of years is the inventory we have available. Of all of the spaces which I know only the fairgrounds is the most accessible either next to the trailers or in some aspect of the veterans building property north of the freeway

• The fairground location is County property – the current location of the trailers has a large amount of space there that would allow the movement of the Los Guilicos encampment to that location.
• The Los Guilicos encampment could remain where it is however its location is a problem due to the isolation.
• There is a location to the south of the Mary Isaac Center which the City of Petaluma and COTS have been discussing considering an indoor outdoor shelter
• Another alternative would be to work with the private landowner to lease space for the parking of RVs and the placement of the Los Guilicos house pallet structures.
• The county was in conversation at one point considering the motel (which is currently boarded up) across the street from the Astro Motel.
• The City of Santa Rosa Senior Center on Bennett Valley Road is also under discussion by the city, but for what use is unclear whether it would be a homeless shelter or long-term development, this was a consideration at the time when they HEAP money was available
• Finally, the untried solution is the one which has been developed by Sonoma Applied Village Services, commonly known as SAVS. They have a plan for tiny villages with tiny houses or large tents or recreational vehicles all in multiple managed properties in different parts of the county. Some properties have been identified.

A good example of this that’s working is the Sebastopol campground/RV Park run by West County Services on the eastern edge of Sebastopol at Highway 12.

Residential Community Houses discussion

The funding used for No Place Like Home involving the purchase of the houses in Cotati and Santa Rosa is also a major resource. A key idea in this realm is to question whether or not the county needs to fully expend the funds to actually purchase the homes.

One idea would be to collaborate with residential investors wherein the residential investors purchase the home and the county contributes the down payment sufficiently that the payments available from the residents (typically disability payments), cover a sufficient part of the payments to make it viable. The county would write contracts with the investors wherein the county funds would be an equity share of the residence for a set period of time such as 10 or 12 years. At the end of that time the investors could repurpose the property or sell the property and the county would then, as an equity stakeholder, get its share of the funds as well as any accrued value back into the homeless and housing system. That would also give organizations 10 to 12 years to prepare to purchase already functioning residential homes. In doing this, perhaps, the $500,000+ amount could go towards four different houses instead of one single house because you’re leveraging private dollars and county puts in 20-25%.

This also is a ripe opportunity for legislative change which would allow special tax benefits similar to the affordable housing tax benefits which large developers get. Legislation could be developed which allow this kind of an arrangement to have similar benefits for the investors thus attracting multiple investors for a segment of the population that needs permanent supportive housing.

A grand plan for community houses and permanent supportive houses would have the high needs population served by a network of group homes and independent living homes which was sufficiently large so that individuals could move among the homes by virtue of their membership in a special program. If it was possible to purchase 20 to 30 to 40 houses it would be amazing. At 4 to 8 people per house that would house between 80 and 320 people. If we develop a model of the County using $12.5 million to leverage $50 million in private investment then we would have homes for 320 people

The cost of the current Affordable Housing Development model would be $160 million to house the same number of people. (@ $500,000 per unit and 6-12 years to completion)

A key question in the world of community housing and shared housing is the degree of oversight and support required. You can assume that there are variety of people who could live perfectly fine by themselves given a structure and a contract and a process of recruitment into each house. You can also be certain that at least two thirds of the 320 people need some kind of ongoing support. The question there is how much support and how periodic? Once a homeless person is stably housed, if they have the right kind of support, you can expect some stability but you can also guarantee crisis and instability periodically for any given person. Thus, our experienced BH housing providers must have adequate staffing to support people.

A key question about the inventory issue is how many for the 4 to 8 bedroom houses are there available to be purchased. This is a deceptive question in that if you can find homes with 3 to 4 bedrooms on property you can add accessory dwelling units or tiny homes to get up to the eight bed goal. Once the residence gets above a certain size; and that size may be just six residents rather than eight, there are other expected complexities that are directly related to the sheer number of people interacting with each other on a regular basis.

A key consideration in housing network of this kind is to assure an occupancy rate that leaves sufficient empty beds so that when problems develop, or new individuals come on the scene, there is a place for them to stay before they are inducted into their permanent residence. There are multiple organizations in Sonoma County who have experience in doing this but do not have the capacity to provide it on a regular basis. In other words, you need extra bedrooms to managed the predictable fluctuations.

If structured in a particular way a residential real estate investment trust or fund could be created so that large institutional investors such as unions, pension funds, and municipalities could invest in these trusts. If the return on investment (or tax incentives) is secured then there is an unlimited amount of money available.

The county has large investment dollars which they are responsible for. Could these investment dollars be used to invest in a fund that builds housing? Similarly, Union Pension funds have major investment dollars. The Providence Hospital organization which holds the controlling interest in Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital has reportedly $13 billion in reserves which are in investments somewhere. And any of the major banks or credit unions also have investment funds which could be appropriately use to secure residential housing for very low income people, low income people, and market rate housing. The creativity in addressing the various models available while securing a stable supply of affordable housing.

This all reflects my opening comment that this is a complex problem, however, if we are not going to do this then we are planning to fail.

This could get ugly or complicated or clear

This could get ugly or complicated or clear, but being informed should help.

Dan Walters says this could get ugly 

Some of the best minds in the state tell us how we can restore the California Dream

The Bay Area has plans:

This one couldn’t address housing, Plan Bay Area 2040 

So this plan was prepared – CASA Compact

So, if you study all of these – you’ll know more.

170513 Dillon Beach sunset (10)

Accessory Dwelling Units – A partial solution


Blessings and tragedies are all together in this thing called life.

The purpose of this note is to encourage people to build more housing in the form of accessory dwelling units

Aside from my experience losing my home (but not my belongings) in the October 2017 Tubbs Fire, I have seriously been a housing advocate for several years.  As a Social worker since 1983 I have tried to help people; so as the “housing crisis” evolved I turned my attention there.  I have a particular interest in assuring that everyone has a residence and a pillow to call their own.  See my blog posts at Who Cares and So What:

I am most interested in developing individual units controlled by homeowners because they give everyone the most flexibility to be part of a larger solution. One of my most trusted and knowledgeable contacts is Rachel Ginis at Lilypad Homes.  They have a very thorough and informative web site.     Both homeowners and commercial home builders could also incorporate the units (and added value) accessory dwelling units generate.


I had a house that burned down in Santa Rosa but I did not live in it.  I had rented it to my brother-in-law.  His family lost everything, but now I have to rebuild the house like so many others.  When I drive through my Hidden Valley neighborhood, I am filled with feelings for each person in the whole community coping with each little tiny piece of land trying to rebuild their lives, their homes, and their perspective.

The political leaders are so busy dealing with what they know about that they do not even think about, or communicate about, some other things we should be looking at.

With all our complex issues I hope some of us will add accessory dwelling units because one of the solutions to our housing crisis is accessory dwelling units because they would maximize efficiency of the land space controlled by each individual homeowner.  Each new builder can create housing for their family members, or their friends, or other people who need housing.  The FEMA and SBA and insurance companies only pay for that which is replaced.  We need a bank or financial institution which will promote accessory dwelling unit loans in the range of $150,000 to $300,000.  In this manner we could rebuild on our pieces of property and create good housing with an affordable value.

The $150,000 per room rate of accessory dwelling units is significantly less than the $400,000 per unit it costs when affordable housing developers build apartment complexes.  This is not a criticism of affordable housing developers; it is just a statement of fact. They operate in a financing structure that causes their units to cost as much as they do.  But, others of us operate in a different financial structure and we should be able to take advantage of being able to create lower-cost housing.

There is so much going on, I hope many of us can find space for this as well.

Gerry La Londe-Berg, 707-569-4280

After I wrote this, a friend, Steve Birdlebough posted this from LA


A mortgage calculator indicated the total costs would have to be around $100,000 to get monthly cost down nearer to $700.

An update:

More places are seeing the wisdom of shared housing.

A list of homeless and housing reports about Sonoma County November 2017

This is not a full list but it is a notable summary.  I imagine the solution could be crowd sourced if anyone wanted to thoroughly study all these and give some new insights or actionable steps.

Recently there have been some very significant reports about homelessness issued concerning Sonoma County.

These include:

  • a bay area overview
  • The Homeless Talk focus group report
  • the League of Women Voters report
  • the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors’ project to reform the Continuum of Care.
In addition to that, just prior to the Sonoma County fires (October 2017)  the homeless system was completely changed to create the Coordinated Entry System(staffed by Catholic Charities). Before that, the City of Santa Rosa changed the way homeless were treated with infractions and misdemeanors and they County and Santa Rosa advocated a Housing First model.
Good overview
SPUR – The Urbanist – Homelessness in the Bay Area
Homeless Talk => [see bottom of page]
Affordable Housing and Homelessness in Sonoma County
Homeless Policy Workshop Sonoma BOS August 22, 2017
homeless were treated with infractions and misdemeanors
Housing First model.
Iain De Jong has been a key consultant in Santa Rosa
In 2016 the held the Homes for All Summit
2017 Homeless Count Results
Survey 2016 Showing public understanding of housing – The last few questions are “fun”