Camp Michaela Pilot Program proposal

DATE:              April 24, 2016

TO:                  Church Council

FROM:             Outreach and Service Commission


That FUMC process, discuss and resolve to pursue an agreement with Camp Michela. Their request is for us to host them for 6 months initially as a pilot program, to provide approximately 10,000 square feet, water, and electricity. They will provide fencing and sanitation facilities. The proposed location is on the south edge of Stony Point near Stony Point Road on the concrete pad which provides some elevation to protect against flooding.

Milestone Dates:

April 19           Special meeting was called to discuss the possibility of hosting Camp Michaela at Stony Point. Representatives from Outreach and Service, Trustees, Stony Point Study team met with Jim Leddy of the Sonoma County Community Development Department

April 24               Present to Church Council that we are pursuing this agreement, and we will discuss further

April 25                Present at Stony Point Study team Monday, April 25 at 5:30, Carriage House

April 25                Present at Trustees meeting Monday, April 25, Stony Point Worship Center

April 26                Present at Outreach and Service Team Tuesday, April 26, at 4 pm, Carriage House

TBD                       Meet with neighborhood residents, RL Stevens School, Santa Rosa City and others

May 14                 Present a proposed MOU at the Church Council meeting for agreement

End of May         Make decision whether or not to move forward

Packet Includes:

  • Proposal from Camp Michela to FUMC
  • Proposed Site
  • Letter of Support for Camp Michela from Supervisor Carrillo
  • Camp Michela Intake/orientation materials


First United Methodist Proposal for Camp Michela
Outreach and Service Presentation
April 19, 2016

Background of Camp Michela:

Camp Michela is a self-governing resident camp which was established in September 2015 at the vacant Sonoma County water Agency property without County permission. This Camp was established to raise awareness of homelessness and provide a safe, secure and temporary place of respite while residents awaited placement into permanent housing.

After the Camp was established, the Sonoma County Community Development Commission (SCCDC) was requested to become the liaison agency as its mission is homeless housing.  The SCCDC has worked with the residents over the duration to help them find permanent housing. 

In November 2015, the Camp moved once to 665 Roseland Avenue also known as Roseland Village Neighborhood Center. The SCCDC has continued to work to find permanent placement and considers the current occupation as an act of civil disobedience.

The Camp began with 21 people and the support of community organizers from the group known as Homeless Action!.  Carolyn Epple and Mikael O’Toole started the effort. The Camp is self-governing with leadership and sustainability by the residents within and leaders elected by the residents. The 21 people swelled to 27 while at the Water Agency property.

The residents have been actively seeking a private property where this Camp could move and further demonstrate the benefits of the model. The benefits have included, health stabilization, the ability to find work while belongings are safe, a vast reduction in chances for victimization which can occur when alone on the streets, and connection with health and social services needed to exit homelessness.

Resources and responsibilities are shared and distributed fairly. Donations, purchased food and supplies are regulated to ensure everyone can eat and have access to medical supplies. Bedding, clothing and other supplies are also distributed through this process.


Camp Michela Demographics:

Currently, there are 21 adults ages 25-72, two dogs and one cat residing within the Camp. There are 11 women and 10 men.  There are no children and they are not allowed. Two people considered residents are living in their recreational vehicle adjacent to the Camp and are both working full time. They are considered part of the Camp. 

Demographics currently:

  • 9 women 12 men (two in RV out of Camp but participate in all aspects)
  • Ethnicity/race:
    • 2 Hispanic, 3 African American/mixed African American,
    • 1 Native American,
    • 15 European descent
  • Age range: 26-61 median age: 53
  • Employment: 8
  • In school: 2
  • Median education: high school degree
  • Pets: Two dogs and one service cat;
  • Time at the camp:
    • under 3 months: 9 individuals      
    • over 5 months: 12 individuals

There are no sex offenders in the camp and anyone admitted undergoes a background check through existing public records including the Megan’s List process.

Camp Michela Operations, Public Interactions and Impacts:

Camp Michela’s operation is based on a resident self-governance system. Entry as a resident requires completion of an Intake Form, a background check and a commitment to Rules of Conduct. There is a 30 day probationary period to ensure alignment with the Camp’s efforts to provide a safe and secure place to live temporarily. All residents are held to a strict clean and sober environment, as well as work responsibilities. The Camp is run by residents with rights and responsibilities.

The Camp does not allow drug or alcohol use.  Residents must work to stay and violation of the Camp Code of Conduct will result in ejection after a due process system. People can “work off” bad actions with greater participation. Some actions, drug use or alcohol use, violent action or threats, results in immediate expulsion.

While located behind the Dollar Tree Store, the residents established a strong working relationship with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Rosa Police Department and the staff of the Sonoma County Community Development Commission staff. There have

been interfaces with law enforcement. Interactions have been when the Camp has contacted law enforcement to support protection of the property as well as bring help for people in need who are outside of the Camp. The Joe Rodota Trail has become cleaner and safer as Camp residents provide nightly patrol, clean up garbage, and ensure that potential criminal activity is dissuading due to their reporting to police.

Camp Michela is also interacting on a daily basis, including weekends, with staff from SCCDC, which is responsible for the entire Roseland Village property being well maintained. SCCDC staff has seen an increase in the cleanliness of the back property from before the Camps move to the present. There is a Library branch and Boys and Girls Club within the adjacent building.  The interactions have been positive. There are times with Boys and Girls Club youth play basketball in back with Camp residents.

Camp Michela is working with the Sonoma County Peace and Justice Center, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit, as its fiscal agent. The PJC is working actively with the Camp on managing cash donations and to provide insurance for a potential future location on private property.


Camp Michela request of First United Methodist Church:

The Camp residents are proposing a six month pilot program at the First United Methodist Stony Point Campus location on 2150 Giffen Avenue to relocate the camp. This six month pilot program would serve to further demonstrate the efficacy, low cost and stabilizing effect a self-governed Camp can provide. The period of time requested would be May 15th, 2016 to November 15th, 2016. The amount of space needed would be less 10,000 square feet (approximately 1/5th of an acre). The proposed location is included on the attached photo.

The SCCDC has requested a departure date from their property by May 1st, 2016. If an agreement on a move is made with FUMC, there may be an opportunity to accommodate the relocation with a minor extension. The Camp is working to honor that request and balance the Camp’s sustainability and the service it is providing the residents.

The proposed number of people is the current 21 (19 in the Camp and the two in the RV). The Camp would always be open to public inspection and offers sweat equity on the property as a means of exchange for being allowed to stay.

The health and hygiene services needed would be port-o-potties, chain link fencing with construction cloth, and minimal access to electricity and water. At the current location the approximate costs for health and hygiene services is $500/month. The Camp would provide liability insurance and residents would sign release forms which the Church would deem appropriate. Ongoing Church/Camp meetings can ensure the property is well kept and prior to

the end of the six months there is a request of discussions for extension. If the use of the property is not congruent with the Church’s property needs, or the impacts on the community are poor, the Camp would voluntarily leave without conflict.

To facilitate consideration of this request, the Camp residents offer any meetings and inspections of the current Camp. The Camp has been and remains committed to demonstrating the efficacy of the Camp as a pathway from being vulnerable and alone to finding safe, secure and permanent shelter.  The Camp is a merely a step and not a solution but it is a vital one that brings people one step further out of the cold and risks of being alone on the streets.

The residents are seeking to enter into a Covenant of Shared Agreement with First United Methodist Church. This covenant would join the Church’s adoption of a new ministry to serve those in need with the residents’ efforts to exit poverty. Residents would commit to following their Code of Conduct, ensure no liability to the Church, and always respect the needs of the Church and its neighbors. Residents would be an active partner in being good neighbors and community members.

The residents are asking to let them join with the Church in this new ministry to help them live with dignity and move forward to greater self-reliance and health. Thank you for your consideration.

Please feel free to contact the Camp leaders John Ruano, (707) 360-8968 or (707) 486-2415

Bonnie Nichols, (707) 480-6567 or one of the original Camp organizers: Carolyn Epple, (707) 758-3521 or (707) 861-3556. You may also contact SCCDC liaison Jim Leddy at (707) 565-7509 or (707) 529-4510 who can share observations of the impacts of Camp Michela at the Dollar Tree location.


Press Coverage (partial):


This is a link to a video which shows interviews with residents and a view of the camp.

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Event Date: 

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 16:00