What is the People’s Village?

On September 20, 2021, the Petaluma City Council unanimously approved the purchase of 25 temporary tiny home units from QuickHaven Transitional Shelters, a Rohnert Park-based construction company. The “People’s Village” is a pilot interim housing program that will provide non-congregate shelter for the most vulnerable Petalumans currently experiencing homelessness. The People’s Village is be located at 900 Hopper Street, Petaluma, and will be operated by COTS. The intent is for residents to work actively with a Housing Navigator and Case Manager to secure permanent housing.

If any of your questions are not answered below, please email [email protected] for more information.

Across the Bay Area, many unhoused individuals seek shelter from an organization like COTS when they are experiencing homelessness. Others, however, may resistant to shelter options and prefer to live out of doors, sometimes with pets, friends nearby, or even within a community they have built for themselves. Many of these individuals generally have their own very specific reasons for feeling uncomfortable in a congregate (or dorm-style) shelter. For some, addiction and mental health issues are the barrier. Veterans of the US military, justice-involved or formerly incarcerated individuals, victims of sexual violence, those who grew up within the foster care system, people with pets, and others also may have very personal reasons they don’t trust institutions or cannot comfortably live in dorm-style congregate shelters. This has intensified during COVID, when that lack of trust might be exacerbated by fears around viral transmission. Homeless individuals are at higher risk of COVID-19 due to close living quarters and a lack of accessible hygiene options. For some, the perceived risks of shelter outweigh the benefit.

According to the 2020 Point in Time count, 90% of homeless individuals in Sonoma County would accept housing if it were affordable and available. COTS staff have grappled with the desire to serve those who might not be open to dorm-style shelter but who would otherwise accept emergency housing. We believe that as a community, we have the will and the resources to find another option. And we are joined in this belief by the City of Petaluma, which is partnering with us to create the People’s Village to address homelessness in the fall and winter of 2021-22.

People’s Village provides an entry point for individuals who may not otherwise come in to shelter, and therefore may have more challenges accessing services that help them find a permanent housing option that works for them. The individual units at People’s Village offer both the independence that encampment residents are used to and the security that is lacking in a camp environment. As residents are able to acclimate to having a roof over their heads, regular nutritious meals, and access to physical and mental health care, over time our hope is that residents will be more open to pursuing a permanent housing option – and that People’s Village will support these residents to do so in a way a typical shelter stay would not. To facilitate movement to permanent housing, the COTS staff, as well as our community partners, will be working to leverage any and all options to support housing placements – Emergency Housing Vouchers, Veterans Housing Vouchers, Coordinated Entry Permanent Supportive Housing Placements, Rapid Rehousing, and case management support.

As a pilot program, the People’s Village is intended to provide unprecedented, low-barrier access to shelter for people experiencing homelessness in our community. The three most common barriers to emergency shelter and housing tend to be “People, Property, and Pets.” To address the first of these barriers, couples may apply to People’s Village and will be assigned a unit per person. The units also provide some storage for residents’ property, and there will be additional on-site storage available. Finally, the People’s Village will eventually offer a dog run, allowing for people with pets to utilize the site. By providing a dignified shelter option with these accommodations, we expect to increase the number of individuals experiencing homelessness that we can serve on their path to permanent housing. To further facilitate permanent housing placements, residents will be required to participate in monthly check-ins with program staff to ensure forward progress towards permanent housing (in practice, staff will be meeting with residents multiple times a week to work on their housing goals). As long as residents are making progress towards their housing goals, they can stay in the program as long as they need. Importantly, the safety of residents, staff, and the community are the highest priority for COTS. Residents will be expected to follow community guidelines, including a commitment to safety. Issues and disputes will be resolved in a trauma-informed manner. In the event that a resident is truly not a good fit for the program, COTS will work with other local providers and partners to transition that individual to a more appropriate placement. Finally, People’s Village residents will be encouraged to participate in community service at the site to help keep the grounds clean and safe. Staff will also convene monthly community meetings to obtain feedback from residents and troubleshoot issues.

QuickHaven is a company based in Rohnert Park founded specifically to address the Bay Area homelessness crisis. Their emergency shelters are built with metal framing, locking doors, operable windows, and standard residential insulation to provide safety and comfort to residents. They offer long-term durability and can be built by three people in less than an hour with standard tools. This reduces maintenance costs over time and allows for future site adjustments should COTS and City staff wish to add units to the existing site or move them to a new location down the road.

QuickHaven also makes a point of hiring staff with lived experience of homelessness as part of their commitment to our community, and we hope that we will be able to connect COTS clients with employment opportunities at QuickHaven when appropriate throughout our partnership.

People's Village will open to our first six residents on March 25, 2022. Additional residents will be offered space as new units are constructed and when site work is complete enough to assure a safe physical space on our campus for all our guests. We aim to have all residents moved in by the end of April.

The units will be placed in the current Mary Isaak Center parking lot (while visitor and volunteer parking will move nearby). We hope that this placement will allow residents to be far-enough removed from the congregate shelter that they will not feel like they are living within the walls of an institution. A separate facility will offer restrooms, showers, and laundry to provide sanitation options not available within an encampment. Pets will be allowed. And residents will be provided with all the on-site services that COTS provides shelter residents, such as case management, regular nutritious meals, health care through our partnership with the Petaluma Health Center, mental health services, and more.

These shelter units are modeled on COTS’ dorm-style emergency shelter. Residents do not pay rent, just as they would not for a shelter bed.

Residents of People’s Village will have access to:

• Two nutritious meals a day at Mary’s Table, co-located at the Mary Isaak Center. A designated meal area will be created for Village residents.

• Ongoing intensive, strengths-based case management. Meetings are housing-focused with continual emphasis on the achievement of housing goals.

• Transportation to and from medical care, employment opportunities, housing opportunities or social service appointments.

• Social Supports including mental health and life skills sessions for both groups and individuals.

• Recovery Support in the form of COTS’ Pathways offerings, including on-site recovery meetings and group transportation to local AA/NA meetings.

• COTS’ on-site Petaluma Health Center clinic where they will receive TB testing and assessment for other immediate healthcare needs.

• Client Enrichment Services including resume assistance, mock interviews, credit counseling and repair, technology assistance, support with housing search, and creation of rental portfolios.

Additional Partnerships
IMDT (Interdepartmental Multidisciplinary Team) – County of Sonoma staff who are clinicians, AODS counselors (Alcohol and Other Drug Studies), client support specialists, social workers who partner with Safety-Net Departments (Probation, Public Defender, Eligibility Worker, Adult Protective Service, Housing Specialist) in the County to collaborate and coordinate care and goals of the homeless.

Petaluma Health Center – Upon entry to an IHS unit, all residents must visit our onsite PHC clinic to receive TB testing. A secondary benefit of having residents meet with PHC staff for this testing is that they are assessed for other immediate healthcare needs. PHC operates this clinic three days a week for anyone who needs medical assistance.

Legal Aid – COTS partnership with Legal Aid provides weekly onsite legal support for all COTS’ clients.

Job Link – Twice weekly, a Job Link representative is onsite at the Mary Isaak Center to provide employment support.

People’s Village is designed to serve the most vulnerable single adults currently experiencing homelessness in Petaluma. An interdisciplinary team including the City of Petaluma, COTS, Downtown Streets Team, Petaluma Health Center, SAFE Team, and other local providers coordinate weekly and will work together to make referrals to the People’s Village, with a priority on vulnerability and length of time homeless.

Yes. A mailing address is essential for those applying to jobs or for permanent housing, and a stay in the People’s Village emergency shelter units will allow residents to use the address of the Mary Isaak Center for these purposes and to receive mail.

Funding for the People’s Village includes a combination of Federal and local dollars from the City as well as the County of Sonoma. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provides significant funding from the City side, while the County allocated both general fund and settlement dollars from PG&E to help support the project.

COTS is also seeking community support in the form of People's Village Sponsorships, which will support the wraparound services that COTS will provide to residents on their journey to permanent housing. Learn more about becoming a People's Village Sponsor, including naming opportunities, at the link here.

People’s Village is a pilot project. As we welcome residents and learn more about their needs and what supportive services work best to help them find success, we hope to be able to replicate this model on another future site.