The Kenwood Press
News: 11/01/2017

Local project matches displaced residents with housing



Long-time Glen Ellen resident Ed Davis wanted to help his old friends Mike and Jan Witkowski after their Glen Ellen home of over four decades burned to the ground with all their belongings.

Witkowski said what he really needed was a long-term place to stay while his home was being rebuilt. Davis directed this wish to his posse of close friends, and after two days, a vacation rental on Gibson Street in Glen Ellen was made available long term.

Then Davis really got busy, starting a Facebook page, “Keep Them in Sonoma Valley – Homes For Fire Victims” (www.facebook.com/groups/316887642111688).

The site acts as a bulletin board for displaced residents to tell Davis what they are looking for in housing, and for local property owners to list what they have available. Davis sends out daily lists to try to make matches that make sense for both parties.

So far, 18 individuals and families have found a place to stay in the valley, near their children’s schools, family, and others in their support system.

The security of knowing you have a place to stay is a huge step on the long, difficult road to recovery and rebuilding.“People are in shock, and no wonder,” said Davis. “Their whole world has been turned upside down.”

Identifying available homes is a challenge, said Davis, especially when some of those in need are large families or people with animals or special needs.

Currently, there are 24 offerings for housing through the Facebook page, though many are studios and small guest quarters.

“The 3-bedroom, 2-bath home is hard to find,” said Davis.

Sixteen individuals and families on Davis’ list are still looking.

There was recently a big win, though. A displaced Glen Ellen family of six was matched with an available home in Sonoma.

Another challenge is that while shorter-term housing works for some, the reality is that it’s likely to be one to two years before residents can get a new home completed.

“Less than six months is not really helping us,” said Davis, though he emphasized he’s appreciative of any offers.

There are a number of vacation rentals in the area, some fully furnished. Davis has had some success with rental property owners, and encourages others to contact him to see if something can be made available.

Davis can be reached at ed@empirewest.com.