Taking Care of Petaluma’s Unsheltered

Team approach to helping our most vulnerable

Like most cities across the Country, some in our community experience homelessness. There are complex reasons that lead to homelessness and the City of Petaluma is committed to helping our most vulnerable and protecting our community.  This effort involves a team of community players including local non-profits Committee on the Shelterless (COTS), Petaluma People Services (PPSC), and Downtown Streets Team (DST), working alongside Petaluma city staff.  Combined, this group offers housing options, counseling, employment, and support services.  The goal of these combined efforts is to identify and address the many issues that lead to homelessness.  We work together, one person at a time, to build trust, find services, and help each individual experiencing homelessness in our community regain health, dignity, and a path into housing.

Services First Model

In some situations, Petaluma law enforcement help is needed to remove illegal and unsafe debris from encampments or to help aid those individuals in crisis that may need immediate medical support.  The philosophy regarding homeless intervention is always “services first / enforcement last.” This means that even when law enforcement is called to address an unsafe situation, we make every effort to partner with local services to provide support and assistance to those whose homeless experience, mental illness, substance use disorder and / or food insecurity requires immediate attention and assistance.

Partnerships are key

The variety of services available to our community is made possible through the incredible work and efforts of our non-profit service providers who work tirelessly to serve the underserved in Petaluma, including Rebuilding Together, Redwood Empire Food Bank, PEP Housing, Veterans Resource Centers of America, Boys and Girls Club of Sonoma-Marin, Petaluma Health Center, Salvation Army and many more.

City Investments in Local Partners

To ensure the needed services are available in Petaluma, the City provides funding and other resources to our partners to ensure our most vulnerable receive the aid and care that they need. Prior to the pandemic, The City invested resources to ensure that at least 12 beds at the Mary Isaac Center were always reserved for Petaluma residents experiencing homelessness, dedicated $300,000 for rental assistance for low income Petalumans, and invested $250,000 to bring DST to Petaluma to provide our unhoused residents with job training, employment readiness skills, and access to services. City investments are leveraged with local fundraising and funds from the County, State and Federal governments to run these important and innovative programs.

We will continue our work

We recognize the larger and more complex systemic issues surrounding housing and homelessness that this does not solve, however we remain committed to going above and beyond in our efforts to secure the necessary resources and build partnerships to restore the dignity and rebuild the lives of our unhoused neighbors in Petaluma with as holistic an approach as possible to keep the entire Petaluma community safe and healthy.

person with hands out

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


The Committee on the Shelterless(“COTS”) has been serving Petaluma for over 30 years. COTS operates two shelters for individuals and families offering a total of 80 beds. They also help get and keep people in housing. They offer two  outreach workers who regularly make contact with homeless residents, working to understand their situations and provide connections to services.

Petaluma People Services

Petaluma People Services Center (“PPSC”)provides a variety of important programs including counseling, therapy and family support services; programs for senior citizens such as Meals on Wheels and an adult day & respite program; fair housing guidance and rental assistance; employment and job training / retention programs; and youth mentoring programs.

Downtown Streets Team

The Downtown Streets Team (“DST”) provide homeless community members with job training, skills, and access to services. They also clean-up garbage in the downtown, waterways, and homeless encampment areas. DST recruits community members experiencing homelessness to volunteer for their daily work crews. Team members receive weekly stipends via gift cards for essentials and help with housing, health services, and workforce training.

Homeless Outreach Services Team

The Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) focuses on ways to help our homeless population access services and get permanent or transitional housing rather than live on the streets or in an encampment.   HOST officers have special training and relationships so that they can respond to homeless related calls with the approach to reach out first and enforce last.

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