People Told To Avoid Popular North Bay Trail Due To Homeless Camp

Jeffrey Schaub
October 22, 2019 - 11:38 am
Homeless camp lines Joe Rodota Trail in Santa Rosa

KPIX-5

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SANTA ROSA, CA (KCBS Radio) – Residents and visitors to Sonoma County are being warned to avoid a section of a popular trail because a large homeless encampment has set up alongside it.

About a hundred tents now line a quarter mile stretch of the Joe Rodota Trail with as many as 120-150 living in the encampment, and Sonoma County Regional Parks has now posted a sign advising people to use an alternate route.

“We have some safety concerns,” says Meda Freeman, spokeswoman with the agency. “We’re concerned that the dwellings and occupants’ belongings could be impeding access to the trail, and also we’re concerned about hazardous waste that’s accumulating.”

That waste includes needles and human waste. Police say there have also been reports of violence in the camp; one cyclist, who used the trail on his daily commute, was attacked last year.

“Our hopes are to get trail access restored as soon as possible,” says Freeman. “Homelessness is a complex, tragic situation. Our hearts go out to anyone who’s without shelter, but at the same time hundreds of people rely on the trail every day.”

The county has been working to clean up the camp but a judge recently issued an injunction preventing officials from moving residents out without providing a safe alternative.

“We’re really trying to formulate an outreach plan that is going to make a difference, that’s going to really bring people in,” says Janelle Wetzstein with the Sonoma County Development Commission. “We are working with our service provider partners to ramp up outreach on the trail. We are also working to get our winter shelters ready to deploy early.”

But the camp has been growing for a year and a half and finding alternatives for all of its residents is a complicated process, especially when some residents do not want to leave.

Officials hope to open winter shelters in November, but those will provide only a temporary solution.