On the city survey, homelessness which had not been on the public’s radar came in at the third highest concern among the public – a distant third – at seven percent. On Tuesday during the council meeting, Martha Teeter from the Davis Opportunity Village (DOVe) gave a presentation on their work and plans going forward.
The data presented by the city – January point in time count mandated by the federal government, shows a steady increase in the number of total homelessness in the last ten years from 114 to 190. And the number of unsheltered homelessness have risen from 34 in 2009 to 114 in 2019.
“We need to turn the curve on this trend, that is where Davis Opportunity Village or DOVe, convened a summit with the express purpose of developing a community homeless strategic action plan,” city staff said.
“Homelessness is an intergenerational issue,” Martha Teeter explained to council. They have Paul’s Place in the planning stages, partnering with Davis Community Meals.
She said that during the summit, they developed a Likert scale of things they wanted, “and at the very top was permanent housing. Close second was storage. Next was emergency shelter and then came health care and education – which surprised some of us but heartened us too,” she said.
“The target is 35 new units available for the vulnerable per year for the three years,” she said. “Those could be apartments newly made available by landlords or they could be new units.”
Other strategies include: “Reward innovative housing solutions for this population,” “Identify potential land for such housing,” “Advocate for change in land use and zoning when needed to achieve the goal,” and finally, “Support Paul’s Place in completing funding and in entitlements.”
They are looking for three additional public or private position, with 30 trained volunteers over a three-year period.
“The other target was to reduce the number becoming homeless,” she said. “Preventing 50 percent more every year from becoming homeless.”
Part of this includes the need to increase “capacity and connection to housing and services.” They also seek to “Collaborate with UC Davis to address student homelessness.”
Finally, they are looking for a permanent, year-round emergency shelter to service 50 people. They would explore a “no barrier safe place to camp for 35-40” and expand a “no-barrier day shelter to 7 days (a) week for 35-40.”
The cost for this would be $3 million. Naturally this is not necessarily going to be city funding. They are looking proactively to apply for foundation and government funding, while also consider enacting a local revenue measure that would be dedicated to homeless services and rental subsidies.
Lawson Snipes, himself formerly homeless, pointed out that one of the problems in Davis is that you cannot rent a room unless you can prove that you can afford three times the rent. And that creates a huge barrier for at-risk people to get housing.
Councilmember Dan Carson said that a very important priority was “trying to move from this winter shelter model that’s been a great program, but it is time for our community to think about permanent year-round shelter, ongoing in our community.”
“The timing for this is really good,” he said. “There are suddenly some state resources that weren’t available a few years ago.”
He added that we have taken steps to address student and senior housing needs and now he believes that we “really need to take some additional steps for families and for workers who work here and have a hard time living here.”
Councilmember Lucas Frerichs said, “There’s no question that a multi-faceted approach is needed.”
He pointed back to the city survey and said, “it’s no surprise… that the overwhelming number one issue that was raised by folks is the lack of affordable housing or housing affordability as well as some of the items that come along with it including homelessness.”
He pointed to the homeless report recently released, “It is pretty illuminating to note that 50 percent of folks either in Davis or Yolo County have lived in this community or the greater Yolo Community for over four years and another 35% are ten years or longer.”
“These people are members of our community,” he said. “The need to provide services is essential.”
Councilmember Will Arnold looking at the proposals, said, “These are things we reasonably ought to achieve given a concerted effort.”
Looking at the overall issue of housing, he said, “I’m very proud of the work we’ve done since I’ve been on the city council approving housing, especially rental housing both market rate and affordable.”
He said that there are a number of misconceptions “not only about homeless individuals but about homelessness as a whole.”
“Currently, we don’t have any place that folks can just camp,” he said. He said, we don’t have “a short-term solution that is permanently available. As a result, folks end up camping wherever they can in what is a dangerous, inhumane, unsanitary situation. It causes issues with near-neighbors who have problems with it.”
On the other hand, he said, “I’m certain that some of those folks who we hear from who don’t like to see homeless individuals camping anywhere, were we to say we are going to develop some places where folks can camp – they would say, you can’t do that.”
He said, “What is not understood is if you can’t camp anywhere – you can camp anywhere – that is a misconception that needs to be addressed.”
Councilmember Arnold added that there is a misconception “that providing services we are somehow inviting and will be overrun with homeless individuals. We get that almost every time this comes up.”
People are afraid that by providing services, homeless will come here and “flood us.”
Will Arnold called that “nonsense” argued ‘there’s nothing to support that.” “It’s essentially a conspiracy theory,” he said “that they’re all conspiring to come to Davis somehow.”
That most of the homeless are long term residents of our community, “that is itself a fact that’s denied by the folks that don’t want us to take proactive action here.”
He said it’s easier to be “dismissive of their needs if you assume they were just bussed in from some far off place.” He added, “That makes it easy to say that we don’t need to provide for them.”
DOVe is looking at some quick wins – adding showers and restroom options, storage lockers, and adding shuttle and other transportation services. This summer they hope to set up a Davis Homelessness Alliance Steering and Subcommittee and hoping for meetings beginning this fall.
—David M. Greenwald reporting