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Seeking shelter in downtown Santa Rosa

  • The corner of Fourth and D streets, shown Saturday afternoon, is a common hangout for people who don't have homes. As the weather turns cold and wet, people who have been camping come into downtown Santa Rosa to get out of the elements and be closer to city services. (Alvin Jornada / PD)

Angela Solis doesn't consider herself homeless, although she has lived the past year with her boyfriend, Jorge Robles, under a tarp along the railroad tracks near Guerneville Road in west Santa Rosa.

Everything the couple needs is inside their encampment: a barbecue for cooking; chairs to entertain company; a mattress among the bushes; and food bowls to feed their black Lab, Gordo.

The pair are among the last to cling to the strip of land along the tracks after a recent crackdown on homeless camps in the area. But Solis knows that soon, they, too, will be dislodged from the place they call home.

Homeless In Santa Rosa

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They may join the dozens of others who, with nowhere else to go, have ended up on the streets of downtown Santa Rosa and drawn the ire of merchants and shoppers.

For Solis, homelessness is a state of mind.

“I don't think we're homeless; we're houseless,” said Solis, 44. “This is our home. This is where I eat and sleep. I'm going to miss it when we have to move.”

Robles, 54, has called the tracks home for seven years. He has seen camps like his destroyed, especially in the past year as construction work to improve the tracks for commuter-rail service ramped up.

“Since they had the idea to get the train going, they have started harassing people a lot more,” he said. “Pretty much all the other people have moved out except me.”

Robles said police officers in the past week have asked him to leave the land. These tracks are owned by the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit authority, and trespassing is illegal.

Jon Kerruish, the SMART access-control manager, said the agency has spent $100,000 to clean up the tracks and remove homeless encampments.

“As we finish construction, enforcement will increase,” he said.

This means that Robles and Solis will be displaced, a fact that Robles begrudgingly accepts.

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