The L&M Motel

The L&M Motel on Healdsburg Avenue may be the future site of a temporary housing program for homeless individuals.

The city of Healdsburg is interested in creating a 21-unit temporary housing program with support services for Healdsburg’s chronically homeless at the L&M Motel on Healdsburg Avenue, and on Oct. 18, the city council took an early step forward in pursuing the potential project.

The Healdsburg City Council unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing the city to submit a joint application for Project Homekey, a $750 million state program that was launched last year with the goal of helping local communities rapidly acquire hotels, motels, commercial buildings and other housing types to rapidly house people experiencing homelessness during the COVID pandemic.

Submitting an application doesn’t guarantee the city will be awarded funds for the project — multiple jurisdictions in the Bay Area are also competing for Homekey funds — nor does it mean the project is set in stone.

However, city officials are hopeful that this could be a good opportunity to address homelessness in Healdsburg.

“We realize there are many steps in front of us ... (We’re) cautiously optimistic that this could be a really exciting development,” said Healdsburg City Manager Jeff Kay.

The Homekey application will be submitted as a joint application with Reach for Home and Burbank Housing. The intent is for Reach for Home to be the service provider with Burbank providing construction/facilities updates services.

Why pursue a temporary housing project?

On Sept. 13, 2021, the city council held a special workshop to address homelessness. During the workshop, the city council expressed interest in working to create an interim housing shelter in Healdsburg.

According to Stephen Sotomayor, Healdsburg’s housing administrator, Reach for Home conducted a survey among 51 north county homeless individuals and 44 said that interim housing would be their first choice in terms of shelter options.

“There’s been a long standing need for interim housing in Healdsburg. This has been evidenced by Sonoma County point in time counts. During those counts, those experiencing homelessness are enumerated and we also distinguish between those that are counted in shelters versus those that are not sheltered,” Sotomayor said.

In east, west, central and southern parts of the county, the average rate of those sheltered is 31%, according to Sotomayor. In north county, that number drops to 1.9% and in Healdsburg, 0% of its homeless population are sheltered.

Sotomayor said while the city does have various affordable housing projects and has recently worked with Burbank Housing to purchase 10 supportive housing units, the city does not have a temporary housing site where individuals can immediately go for shelter and case management services.

“This is a unique opportunity to finally address the missing component to our system of care. While shelters are not the final answer to housing, they are a necessary step in stabilizing those that need help so they can then seek more permanent solutions,” Sotomayor said.

Looking at Homekey funds and other monies

Eligible applicants for Project Homekey include cities, counties and other local public entities.

The Homekey funds can be used for capital and site acquisition costs and for operational needs.

Funding is awarded in geographic regions first, then statewide. The capital allocation for the Bay Area is $165,312,376 and the operation allocation is $34,524,079. The amount of funding provided is based upon local match funds and clients served.

City staff’s preliminary funding requests for the temporary housing project include:

-       $5.2 million to $5.4 million for capital costs, and $352,800 per year for three years for operating costs from Project Homekey.

-       $1 million to $1.4 million for capital costs, and $613,200 per year for seven years for operating costs from county funding.

Funds would also be needed for site security and mental health resources.

Sotomayor said city staff has been working with the County of Sonoma and the county’s continuum of care board to seek capital and operational funds to assist with program match requirements and the long term operation of the site.

“County staff have indicated support for one-time capital costs and a seven-year operational subsidy,” according to Sotomayor’s council agenda report. The county will consider this funding commitment at the Oct. 26 Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Site set up

The purpose of the site would be to get people off the streets and on a path toward permanent

housing.

Individuals would get into the system of care and during their interim stay, case workers would help identify more permanent housing solutions through either a housing voucher — at the Los Guilicos shelter site, 38% of its residents are moving on to more permanent housing through vouchers, according to Sotomayor — or other appropriate wrap-around services.

People would be able to stay at the L&M Motel site for 29 days and would have the option of getting a 29-day stay renewal.

Councilmember Ariel Kelley asked if there would be any food services and whether violent behavioral health concerns would be grounds for removal from the housing site.

Sotomayor said they haven’t ironed out the details yet in regards to food services, but he assured Kelley that the site would have 24-hour security.

“Safety wouldn't be something that we compromise on,” Sotomayor said. “If someone is a safety threat, that does not obligate us to house them.”

Councilmember David Hagele was more concerned with project funding and asked if the city can exit the project if they don’t come up with enough matching funds.

Sotomayor said city staff are still working through the project’s underwriting process and working with partners to develop capital and operating budgets. He said the city’s obligation to the project starts when the city signs the contract to receive the Homekey grant funds.

Kelley said she supports the project, but she also voiced concerns about the operation of the site with regards to its location near The Healdsburg School and the entrance of town.

“I do have strong concerns around the operational aspects of this project regarding the entrance to our town, there’s a school across the street with 200 students, there’s neighboring businesses that have expressed concerns and so I think the security plan and the access to and from the site and how that will be managed are really critical in ensuring that this project is successful,” Kelley said. 

During public comment, resident Jessica Pilling echoed Kelley’s thoughts and said as a resident and a business owner she’s curious about the expectations of the site.

Kay acknowledged that there will never be a perfect site for temporary housing.

“We’re going to have to put our heads together to try to come up with an operational plan that works for neighbors and the entirety of the community as effectively as possible,” he said.

Resident Kelli Kuykendall expressed support for the project as did Mayor Evelyn Mitchell.

“I fully support us going after this application. I think this is a huge step for our city,” Mitchell said.

(1) comment

Michael95448

Bus pass to Rohnert Park might work better

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