City staff gives update on plan to end homelessness

The city’s goal to end chronic homelessness by 2025 was made in response to a shelter crisis declared in 2021.|

One year ago, Petaluma’s elected leaders set an ambitious goal: to end chronic homelessness by 2025. At a recent City Council meeting, those same leaders heard an update on what steps are being taken to reach that goal.

The May 1 update began with a presentation by city housing manager Karen Shimizu and consultant Andrew Hening, who gave a one-year progress report on the city’s action plan for ending homelessness.

According to their presentation as well as city documentation, the city has launched a new partnership with the nonprofit HomeFirst that will strengthen outreach to homeless people, at local encampments and elsewhere, in order to find them shelter. HomeFirst is also focused on expanding landlord recruitment in the city’s permanent housing programs.

According to a staff report, while the city is investing in new affordable and supportive housing projects, “one of the most expedient strategies for getting people rehoused is finding and securing rental opportunities with local landlords.”

To help make those connections, HomeFirst will partner with the city’s existing service providers, including COTS, the Downtown Streets Team and Petaluma People Services Center, Shimizu said.

Once property owners are found, funding comes next – and city staff cited "one-time financial assistance, rapid rehousing funding, housing vouchers, and/or agency-managed master leases“ as ways to meet that need.

City staff have otherwise implemented efforts like opening the 25-unit “People’s Village” interim housing community, launching the mobile shower program, increasing outreach to the city’s unhoused residents to get them shelter and services, securing funding for the 60-unit “Studios At Montero” permanent supportive housing program, and securing $1.3 million in grant money through California’s Encampment Resolution Grant.

Looking ahead, the city plans to continue boosting its programs in fiscal year 2023-24 that target homelessness, with efforts including finding new sources of funding, joining countywide programs to fight homelessness and more.

Not counting move-ins to the Studios at Montero site, Hening reported during the meeting presentation that the city has continued to see about 125 “chronically homeless” individuals in the community, with nearly half of them remaining on city streets and the other half using city shelter options like People’s Village or the adjacent Mary Isaak Center.

“Our vision is to reach functional zero chronic homelessness in Petaluma by the end of 2025,“ the city said in its vision statement presented at the May 1 meeting. ”In the process, we will create a crisis response system that ensures homelessness becomes a rare, brief, and one-time experience in our community.“

The action plan, which was unanimously approved by the City Council in June 2022, outlines eight different strategies, which include creating a “housing-focused” outreach system, exploring shelter options for vulnerable populations, and tackling root causes of the city’s homeless crisis.

Amelia Parreira is a staff writer for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at or 707-521-5208.

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