Rex Bishop, one of the first homeless veterans to move into The Palms Inn — a former motel now fully converted into permanent housing for homeless people — has only had his new room in Santa Rosa for two months, but he has already become an ambassador for the project.
Bishop says receiving permanent housing restored his hope that he could make it. The Vietnam veteran became homeless last year when his longtime partner died and he could no longer afford his rent.
He began sleeping in his car, then depression set in. His health spiraled out of control and he lost 40 pounds in just a few months.
“When Rudy died, my appetite died with him,” said Bishop, 64. “But since moving in here, the light inside me is burning brighter and brighter every day.”
The transformation of the former motel on a downtrodden stretch of Santa Rosa Avenue into permanent housing is seen as a model in Sonoma County for addressing homelessness, especially among veterans.
The project provides each resident with a case manager and access to support services, including mental health care, substance abuse treatment and job training.
“We need to do more of this in Sonoma County so we can house our most vulnerable residents and those who have served our country,” Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane said. “We know there are other hotels and motels being underutilized. It’s criminal that we ask somebody to serve their country and then not provide something so basic as housing and health care, especially when so many have experienced trauma.”