ENCAMPMENT RESPONSE

The health and safety of our residents, sheltered and unsheltered, is our highest priority.  Encampments often create health and safety risks for the community and for the individuals living in them.  Our practice includes linking those in encampments to services through Catholic Charities Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) as a first step.  

Based on recent court decisions, the City is constrained in its ability to enforce existing camping prohibitions within the City without first being able to provide adequate shelter or housing options.  Unfortunately, there is not enough shelter that meets the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness.  This is why the City plans to add an interim housing program using state Homekey funds.

The City’s response to encampments differ based on whether the encampment is located on public or private property.

Encampments on Public Property

The City is limited in what it can do to prohibit camping on public property. Courts have ruled that Cities cannot require people to leave a public property site without first providing adequate shelter or housing opportunities. Currently, Rohnert Park has no interim housing or shelters. This is why the City is developing a 60-unit interim housing facility with State Homekey funds. An interim housing program would give us a tool to better address encampments throughout the City, and provide a safe place for people experiencing homelessness to live temporarily while working on finding long-term housing. (To learn more about this project, click here.)

In addition to providing social services to individuals living in encampments, City staff regularly monitor encampments for health and safety issues. The City conducts regular trash and debris removal at these sites, as well as tree pruning and vegetation management as needed.   

If an encampment causes “severe safety hazard,” meaning it interferes with the public’s use of public property or creates risks of imminent injury or death, the individuals will be required to move immediately and the site will be cleaned. These types of encampments are rare and include examples such as camping on highway shoulders and off-ramps or areas prone to flash floods. 

Encampments on Private Property

Private property owners are responsible for the condition of their property.  Homeless encampment-related activity, if left unchecked, can result in conditions that violate the nuisance code.  Property owners have the right to enforce no-trespassing laws on their property.  These are steps the City recommends property owners take when someone is trespassing on their property:

     1. Approach individual(s) and ask them to leave (unless it is unsafe to do so)

     2. Call Public Safety and request a response

     3. Officer will work with the property owner/representative to find ways to address the situation

These are some proactive measures owners of private property open to the public (retail, offices, etc.) can take:

     -Empower staff to address and report unauthorized vehicles and trespassing to management.

     -Provide security on-site overnight throughout the day.

     -Post property signage addressing trespassing and parking.

     -Lock and secure trash enclosures, backflows, bathrooms, and other locations where people may loiter.

     -Tow unauthorized vehicles under Vehicle Code 22658(a)(1).