At the meeting on January 25, 2021, the Commission on Human Rights of Sonoma County called for the county authorities to respect the rights of people experiencing homelessness and to take steps to resolve the crisis throughout the County. It published a new resolution updating the resolution previously published in 2018. Read the news article in the Sonoma Sun dated February 8, 2021. [Read]
The following is the text of the new resolution.
WHEREAS, the fundamental human right to housing is recognized in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and affirmed by Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and
WHEREAS, U.N. Article 9 guarantees that persons with disabilities have equal access to the physical environment, transportation, information and communications, and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment; and
WHEREAS, homelessness has become a crisis of historic proportions and options to address the needs of all those without shelter in Sonoma County are woefully inadequate, including the needs of a significant portion of persons experiencing homelessness who require special accommodations due to their physical and/or mental disabilities; and
WHEREAS, local governments have consistently fallen short of the community’s obligation to honor the human rights of all residents, and homeless encampments on public lands have been largely forced to exist without local government providing the most basic resources needed to maintain health, such as essential hygiene comprising access to clean water, restrooms, or other necessities such as security and wraparound services; and
WHEREAS, the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights on August 28, 2018,
resolved and formally requested that the County Board of Supervisors and the Santa Rosa City Council designate an appropriate number of “safe camping areas for immediate use by refugees, with security, hygiene and sanitation facilities, trash collection, housing navigation and all other supporting health and life services as needed,” and further resolved and requested that officials in all jurisdictions work to designate such authorized areas in all county and city districts, with adequate funding to preserve Constitutional and ADA rights, yet such solutions have yet to be initiated; and
WHEREAS, the Commission also resolved that the Board of Supervisors and Santa Rosa City Council “with all due haste create and fund sanctioned transitional villages with small living structures with windows and lockable doors” with all services described above as part of the “logical continuum of the Housing First model designed to provide permanent housing solutions for all homeless individuals who seek housing,” yet such solutions have yet to be initiated; and
WHEREAS, the County of Sonoma and the City of Santa Rosa are currently subject to the terms of a Preliminary Stipulated Injunction Vannucci et al. v. County of Sonoma et al., which includes requirements for notice and offer of adequate shelter before enforcement action is taken against certain people living outdoors on public property, as well as protections for the personal property of those people; and the terns of the Injunction will remain in effect through July 2021, and
WHEREAS, the Supreme Court of the United States in 2019 upheld the 9th Circuit decision in Martin v. Boise, which guaranteed the rights of people camping on public property when adequate shelter is not available, and
WHEREAS, temporary shelter options still remain severely inadequate to meet the needs of 2,000+ unsheltered people in Sonoma County, and local governments have failed to fulfill the requests of this Commission’s previous resolutions for relief, and the human rights of people experiencing homelessness still are not respected, and
WHEREAS, in the most recent example of disregard for the human rights of unsheltered residents of Sonoma County, the City of Santa Rosa recently has begun summarily disbanding encampments, without notice and without any effort to store or preserve the belongings of homeless campers, thereby destroying key possessions necessary to survive outdoors (such as tents, blankets, and coats), at a time when government officials know a severe rain storm with below freezing temperatures is imminently approaching;
THERFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT, on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights again formally requests that the County of Sonoma and the City of Santa Rosa immediately cease all actions that violate the fundamental human rights of the unhoused residents of our county, and further, that they act to immediately fund and create safe camping havens and transitional villages as described above in all geographic areas of the county.