The city in looking to address concerns about the homeless have developed the concept – initiated by Mayor Brett Lee where they have examined the feasibility of establishing a pilot project for a respite center for those individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Davis.
The respite center as proposed would be comprised of two key components:
A day shelter consisting of modular units where individuals could spend the day and have access to bathrooms, showers, and laundry facilities
An overnight shelter consisting of sleeping cabins where individuals could spend the night
Some of the possible sites that were listed on an agenda item to came to council on July 30 included: 1813 Fifth Street, 3559 Second St, 24998 County Road 102, 1425 Wake Forest Drive and 504 Fifth Street.
Naturally there have been some objections to the location at 1813 Fifth Street, which is the Community Gardens and now more recently there are concerns about the 3559 Second Street location which is along the road under the Dave Pelz Bike Overcrossing.
Staff notes: “At present, the City is storing wood chips on the land. Figure 2 features a rendering that depicts a potential layout of the modular units at this location. Like the Fifth Street option, staff estimates that the day shelter could accommodate up to 40 individuals at one time and the overnight shelter could sleep up to 15 individuals.”
But this location has generated considerable pushback.
They write: “This proposal has grossly neglected an utmost issue: the safety and security of our schoolchildren, the most vulnerable population.”
They note that this is a pedestrian and bike conduit “that more than 200 schoolchildren use to travel from south Davis to two elementary schools and one junior high school in east Davis.”
They continue: “The impact of proposed homeless shelter, including but not limited to sanitary risks, substance abuse, and potentially illegal activities, cannot be effectively shielded from our children. While we feel strongly that the issue of homelessness must be addressed in every city, we also believe that the safety of our children drastically outweighs the benefits of this proposed location.”
They add: “In order for this shelter to operate at its proposed location, the City must comply with a ZERO tolerance policy in order to protect our children’s safety, security and wellbeing, and prevent undue influences from illicit behavior. If one incident of public indecency or drug proliferation or any harm to a child occurs, residents will demand the immediate and complete closure of the homeless shelter. Furthermore, the good intention behind this shelter would pale in comparison to the huge financial consequences and prolonged litigation against the City of Davis and its taxpayers if such incidents occur.”
A letter to the paper also objects to this location. They argue there is no regular bus service along Second Street, no close by medical facility, and the placement “is dead center of paths and trails serving the resident of the Mace Ranch, some of East Davis, and the main gateway into South Davis.”
They argue: “The existing documented evidence clearly shows what happens to residential areas that are adjacent to homeless facilities.”
In addition, they write, “I do not believe the city’s promises of robust staffing and supportive services. This city has a long track record of failure to deliver on promises made. Additionally, our police force is understaffed and has been for quite a while. To increase police patrols around this shelter the city must hire additional officers or take them from other patrols beats.”
Finally they note that the gathering area would “require major oversight and control of human waste, needles, drugs and alcohol. Also, there will be an increase violence, theft and unwanted behavior near residential areas.”
In response, Barbara Archer, the city’s Communications and Customer Service Manager, notes, “no decision has been made about a location for this program.”
However, the council and staff have started outreach and discussion about the subject.
“City Council has heard many concerns voiced by community members in the recent past and is taking steps to explore potential positive steps. They have directed staff to research options and provide information that will inform their decisions. This work is being done transparently and has been shared in publicly noticed meetings,” she said.
This subject will come up at an upcoming council meeting.
My brief thoughts on this. First of all, I am largely agnostic on location. I suspect that every location that the city picks for a facility will have reasons not to do it. Just as every location for homeless services and housing will also get pushback.
This has been my concern with the Pacifico Discussion as well. People have to have a place to live and sometimes they are going to be located near neighbors or families or children. In the case of Pacifico, it seems the need to properly monitor and manage the facility is the overriding concern.
The letter writer talking about the lack of resources for police might keep in mind that locating the homeless population in a single location would actually save rather than cost resources.
The real question is whether this concept will improve the lives of homeless people and then the challenge is to find the best location to locate them. I suspect all of those locations will present opposition with the ammunition to object.
—David M. Greenwald reporting