Homeless Encampment Assistance Program

The Homeless Encampment Assistance Program (HEAP) continues to address homelessness across the City. The City recognizes that efforts to resolve encampments in one area of the community have resulted in the relocation of individuals to other areas of the community – despite City actions to mitigate relocation through outreach, engagement, and the provision of services, shelter, and housing. HEAP actively monitors and responds to encampments relative to other priorities and available resources. This includes outreach to individuals living in tent encampments as well as vehicles, trailers, and RVs. The current public health emergency coupled with HEAP operating parameters, outlined below, have impacted the City’s homeless response efforts. We share your concerns regarding encampments in the community and are responding while being mindful of public heath guidance, the restrictions of a preliminary court injunction, and as time and resources allow.

Preliminary Injunction resulting from a Federal lawsuit brought against the City and County: Per the terms of the Preliminary Injunction, prior to arrest or citation for unlawful camping, the City and County must provide individuals within the encampment with the following: reasonable notice, an opportunity to be assessed for shelter and services, access to adequate shelter, storage of belongings, and a process to appeal a denial of any disability-related requests for reasonable accommodation.

Sonoma County Health Officer Order No. C19-09 (see paragraph 6): Persons experiencing homelessness are exempt from those portions of the Shelter-in-Place Order that require individuals to shelter in their place of residence. Individuals experiencing homelessness remain subject to the Order’s restrictions on public and private gatherings, travel and work activities. Individuals experiencing homelessness also remain subject to the Order’s Social Distancing and Hygiene Requirements, including requirements for facial coverings. These requirements are being addressed as resources permit.

Centers for Disease Control guidance, which generally advises against dispersing encampments to prevent the spread of COVID-19:  In keeping with CDC guidance, the City does not disrupt encampments unless the conditions within the encampment pose significant health and safety risks. When those site-specific risks outweigh the risks of COVID spread, the City activates HEAP protocols to protect individuals living in these encampments as well as the broader community. Prior to the resolution of an encampment, the HOST works with individuals within the encampment to encourage them to relocate to safer conditions with access to needed health and social services. The City also remains in on-going communication with the Sonoma County Department of Health Services regarding COVID-19 testing of individuals within encampments.