It has emerged as a new issue of controversy – the concept of a respite center to provide day services and potentially temporary overnight shelter for those individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Davis.
The respite center as proposed would be comprised of two key components: (1) A day shelter consisting of modular units where individuals could spend the day and have access to bathrooms, showers, and laundry facilities; and (2) An overnight shelter consisting of sleeping cabins where individuals could spend the night.
On July 30, 2019, in preliminary findings presented in a feasibility report potentially suitable city-owned locations included: 1813 Fifth Street, 3559 Second Street, 24998 County Road 102, 1425 Wake Forest Drive, and 504 Fifth Street.
Council did not allocate any funding toward the pilot program, but they directed staff to take the next steps to explore siting the center on a city-owned parcel located at 3559 Second Street.
Staff reached out to businesses directly adjacent to the location.
Those businesses had a number of concerns. One of them was bicyclist and pedestrian safety in the vicinity, as the “David Pelz overcrossing serves as the primary active transportation connection between east and south Davis” and the location is on a safe route to school that many children use.
There were also concerns about employee safety and security while as work, “Particularly concerned about the lobby areas since some building doors remain unlocked during business hours and do not have onsite security to monitor the lobby areas and parking lot” and “concerned about safety for employees who work at night.”
Among the other concerns: theft and vandalism, loitering, visual blight. They were concerned that “the pilot could become a permanent program.”
Staff also received “significant input from residents, primarily from the Mace Ranch neighborhood.” Staff writes, “The majority of residents reiterated the concerns already identified by the businesses with a particular emphasis on the safety of schoolchildren who regularly traverse the Dave Pelz overcrossing. Others opposed siting a homeless center anywhere within City limits. A minority voiced support.”
Staff notes that they did not conduct a formal neighborhood outreach, but would do so after “evaluating the business concerns and determining whether the City could adequately mitigate those concerns.”
Staff writes, “It is unlikely any mitigation measures would change the view of those who oppose this location.”
The respite center idea was proposed by Mayor Brett Lee, who explained at a Chamber event that a big problem is, because the homeless cannot simply go and hang out in neighborhoods or residential areas all day, they go to the downtown where they can blend in a bit better.
However, they proposed a new idea about where the homeless can go, so that they are not in the downtown all day.
He said, “(A) respite center where people can go, where it’s planned that they go there.
“There isn’t sort of one solution,” he said. “This is a piece.”
Given the community pushback at the Second Street site, the council could look at another location. However, staff said that they anticipate “opposition to any location selected.”
Council’s direction was for the city to look at both a day center and overnight center simultaneously.
However, staff said, “Once staff began research into both aspects of the pilot, it became clear that implementing an overnight center would take additional time. Staff has therefore proceeded with the goal of bringing forward the day respite center first and then concentrate on the details necessary to implement an overnight respite center.”
Given negative feedback on the initial site, staff is returning to council with additional feedback for alternative locations.
Some of the alternatives include: Exploring a combination of day and overnight respite center at either 512 Fifth St or 1717 Fifth Street, both city owned properties. Suggest another city-owned or privately owned location. Or shift efforts to increasing support to existing community based programs that support and address issues of homelessness.
—David M. Greenwald reporting