On February 19, 2019, Mayor Brett Lee made a proposal to examine the feasibility of establishing a one-year respite center pilot project that would serve individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Davis.
As proposed by the mayor, the respite center would be located on city-owned property. Among the important features, it would contain a “day shelter consisting of modular units where individuals could spend the day and have access to bathrooms, showers, and laundry facilities.”
It would also have “an overnight shelter consisting of sleeping cabins where individuals could spend the night.”
The staff report notes that since council directed staff “to research the concept and return with options for implementation,” several things have “transpired that underscore the importance of addressing homelessness in Davis.”
First, the point-in-time count numbers show that homelessness is a growing problem in Davis.
“According to recently released 2019 point-in-time count data, 190 persons experience homelessness on any given night in Davis,” staff reports. “Of the 190 persons, 114 experienced unsheltered homelessness and the remaining 76 experience sheltered homelessness. This number reflects a 30% increase from the last point-in-time count when the number of persons experiencing homelessness was 146.”
Second, the 2019 resident survey identified the lack of affordable housing (31%); growth/development and land use/sustainability (10%); and homelessness (7%) “as the City’s most important problems.”
Staff, in particular, notes that “the 2019 survey marked the first time residents identified homelessness as a problem, as the City asked the same question back in 2007 and 2014.”
Finally, the Davis Opportunity Village has “invited stakeholders representing all sectors to participate in a series of planning workshops with the goal of creating a three-year community action plan to address homelessness.”
Staff writes: “While the City’s efforts are not necessarily a component of the plan, Council agreed to consider the plan as context when making homeless service related decisions.”
There are three possible options for how the city could establish a one-year pilot program for the respite center.
- Option I: Modular Units, Sleeping Cabins, and Minimal Staffing. Option I most closely aligns with the mayor’s initial proposal of citing a day shelter and an overnight shelter, using sleeping cabins, on one campus. Alternatives I A and I B bifurcate the day and night components and cost them out separately. Council could choose to move forward with either the day shelter or the overnight shelter individually or site the shelters on two different locations.
- Option II: Privately-Owned Building and Robust Staffing. Option II, the most expensive, involves siting the day and overnight shelters in a privately-owned building. While this option would be the easiest to implement since much of the needed infrastructure would already exist, it would involve finding a suitable building in the private sector to rent. Alternative II A provides the cost for just the overnight shelter component.
- Option III: Increased Support for Existing Nonprofit. Option III, the least expensive, increases support for Davis Community Meals and Housing (DCMH) to expand the hours of operation for their current resource center located at 1111 H Street.
In analyzing the options, staff argued that the recommendation “depends on what goal the city council hopes to achieve.”
They note, “If the goal is to operate a short-term pilot to test an innovative concept and assess whether the concept is replicable, then staff recommends developing a detailed implementation plan for Option I (modular units, sleeping cabins, and minimal staffing) at the City owned site near the Dave Pelz overcrossing including a timeline, budget with identified funding sources, and a staffing strategy.”
This would represent “a short-term trial” that would expand the city’s current continuum of emergency shelter options.
Staff notes that the Dave Pelz location is recommended preliminarily because “the site is close to public transportation, the site is adequate in size, and an emergency shelter is already a permitted use.”
Another option is the Community Gardens, but staff notes that, while the area is a suitable location near key transit, it would “require a conditional use permit and it will necessitate displacing plot holders.”
They also express concerns about proximity near adjacent residential neighborhoods, which would require some outreach.
A second possibility is developing a long-term shelter plan. This would “address the rising number of persons experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Davis.”
In that scenario, “staff recommends foregoing all options in lieu of examining the feasibility of siting a permanent, year-round overnight shelter at the Dave Pelz location or at an alternate location.”
Staff writes that, while they see the need to act now, “staff views establishing a permanent, year-round overnight shelter as one of the greatest unmet gaps in the City’s homeless services continuum.”
In addition, “the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter (IRWS) has approached the City for help to transition to a permanent year-round site and their efforts to develop an infrastructure that includes paid professional staff. While volunteers have successfully managed and operated the IRWS for 12 years, leadership has publicly expressed concerns about its capacity to continue operating a rotating shelter using its current model of rotating every week and relying solely on volunteers.”
In addition, “staff does not recommend including a day shelter component as part of a long-term shelter plan. This is because Davis Community Meals and Housing (DCMH) submitted a development application to demolish its existing facility at 1111 H Street and rebuild a new multi-functional facility that will include an expanded day shelter. Should the project receive entitlements, the expanded day shelter is likely to meet the community’s day shelter need.”
There is also a third possibility – the need to devise both short and long-term shelter plans which would “address the rising number of persons experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Davis.”
Here staff again “recommends a short term site such as the Dave Pelz location while concurrently embarking on a broader analysis of long term shelter opportunities (including the identification of a publicly or privately owned site or building, a timeline, budget with identified funding sources, and a staffing strategy).”
The next step would be for the council to outline its goal and provide staff with direction to return with a more detailed plan.
—David M. Greenwald reporting