A program that allows unhoused people in Sonoma County to safely park their RVs while receiving wrap-around services has been extended through June after the Board of Supervisors approved $330,000 of funding Tuesday.

The Horizon Shine Village safe RV parking program at 845 Gravenstein Highway North in Sebastopol provides county-approved space for RVs, cars or tents with access to food, sanitation, laundry and shower facilities. The program had been in danger of shutting down after a budget shortfall, the county said.

Horizon Shine is a 25-space program primarily serving people who formerly lived on Morris Street in Sebastopol, the county said. It is facilitated by Sonoma Applied Village Services (SAVS), which hopes to secure yet more funding to keep it going through the end of 2023.

The county is requiring SAVS to keep data such as cost-per-person and how many residents transition into permanent housing or return to homelessness.

The Horizon Shine Village site is a fenced area in Sebastopol that includes a community tent, portable shower facilities, restrooms and an on-site manager. (Image courtesy of Sonoma Applied Village Services)

“Sonoma Applied Village Services must show it is working towards an end date for Horizon Shine along with a permanent housing plan for each resident at the location,” said the county.

A video provided by the county of the Horizon Shine property shows a tall fence surrounding the space with a community tent and 18 RVs that were once stationed along Morris Street. Stated rules are no firearms, no violence, quiet hours and “respect each other.”

Homeless numbers increasing

Sonoma County’s 2022 Point in Time census of people experiencing homelessness there showed a 5 percent increase over 2020’s numbers, with 2,893 people unhoused.

“As we continue to push for more permanent housing solutions, transitional housing sites like Horizon Shine play a critical role,” said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins. “We have to keep people housed while new sites like George’s Hideaway, Caritas Village and others prepare to open.”

George’s Hideaway is a former “historic tavern” in Guerneville that is being converted into supportive housing as part of the state’s Project Homekey program. The Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of the rustic bar earlier this year, shelling out $985,000 to acquire the property.

Caritas Village is a Catholic Charities-run project that consists of a 48,000-square-foot family shelter, childcare center and health clinic. The goal is also to create 128 apartments of affordable permanent housing.

m The Caritas Village project, pictured during construction in August 2022, is a Catholic Charities-run site that consists of a 48,000-square-foot family shelter, childcare center and health clinic. It will provide 128 apartments of affordable permanent housing. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa)

Construction on the facility is complete but other services are being phased in slowly, according to the Caritas Village website. A homeless drop-in center has been operating there since Sept. 13 with a family shelter.

Catholic Charities says that 87 percent of the people they serve in Sonoma County lived there before they became unhoused, with 65 percent having lived there 10 years or more.

“The Sonoma County affordable housing shortage was exacerbated by the Tubbs Fire,” said the organization.

To date, Sonoma County has created 220 new Project Homekey housing units, the county said.

Katy St. Clair got her start in journalism by working in the classifieds department at the East Bay Express during the height of alt weeklies, then sweet talked her way into becoming staff writer, submissions editor, and music editor. She has been a columnist in the East Bay Express, SF Weekly, and the San Francisco Examiner. Starting in 2015, she begrudgingly scaled the inverted pyramid at dailies such as the Vallejo Times-Herald, The Vacaville Reporter, and the Daily Republic. She has her own independent news site and blog that covers the delightfully dysfunctional town of Vallejo, California, where she also collaborates with the investigative team at Open Vallejo. A passionate advocate for people with developmental disabilities, she serves on both the Board of the Arc of Solano and the Arc of California. She lives in Vallejo.