Open Mic: Stop the Sweeps

One of the roots of the word city is “membership in the community” and Santa Rosa is nothing if not a community.  Sonoma County Acts of Kindness stands with the Sonoma County Human Rights Commission in declaring a fact often overlooked by many: that our community encompasses both housed and unhoused neighbors, and that everyone is deserving of respect and dignity.

This means several things in practice and the first is an end to the City of Santa Rosa’s policy of forcibly disbanding homeless encampments, a practice known as “sweeping” camps or “sweeps.”  Sweeps are historically and statistically unwise as they do not reduce homeless populations, but are often resorted to by governments unable to reconcile structural issues such as high housing prices and lack of adequate alternatives.  Fortunately, the solution to these structural issues is simple: engage a multi-pronged approach to unsheltered communities by meeting them where they are and ensuring a safe living space without displacement.  This solution is bold, innovative, and scalable.  It involves a multitude of options that are low cost and efficient.  And best of all, it involves collaboration with the organizations and caring citizens who are already working together to help each.  In short, it leverages everything great about the Santa Rosa community.

Sweeping homeless encampments is not a solution because it does not address a problem.  The problem is not where unsheltered people are, it’s that there are unsheltered people.  Sonoma County Acts of Kindness works everyday to provide basic necessities, resources, and advocacy to enrich the well-being of our unhoused and struggling neighbors.  We ask that you join us in demanding an end to the poor treatment of our community members, if not for them then for ourselves.  After all, deep in the root of the word city are the words “beloved,” and “dear.”  We love Santa Rosa and hold it dear, and demanding an end to the sweeps is an expression of that kindness.

Sonoma County Acts of Kindness is a nonprofit which offers support to unhoused people in Sonoma County. The group recently launched an online petition calling on Santa Rosa officials to “stop the sweeps.” To have your topical essay considered for publication, write to us at [email protected]

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