A little over a month ago, the council shifted gears and directed staff to pursue a pilot daytime respite center on the City’s Public Works Corporation Yard located at 1717 Fifth Street. This followed pushback about the proposed Second Street location and a re-evaluation of the corporation yards.
Among the reasons cited by council: “The site is centrally located and near other social services such as Yolo County’s Helen Thomson Health and Human Services Center.”
In addition, “The site offers a large enough footprint to accommodate the proposed amenities and services and is City owned and controlled.”
Finally, “The site features a level of existing infrastructure that did not exist on the other city-owned parcels. Such infrastructure includes several buildings and utility hookups. These features significantly reduce start-up time and costs.”
By Yolo County’s 2019 point-in-time-count, roughly 190 persons experience homelessness on any given night. Of those, “114 experience unsheltered homelessness and the remaining 76 experience sheltered homelessness. This number reflects a 30% increase from the last point-in-time count from 2017 when the number of persons experiencing homelessness was 146.”
However, “staff believes the 190 count does not fully portray what is happening on the streets.”
According to public safety officials, “the homeless situation in Davis has reached a public health emergency. There are individuals currently living, or staying for long periods of time both during the day and night, in parks, greenbelts, open space areas, and along water drainage canals.”
The pilot program would come at some cost to the city. Estimates from the city place a six-month cost at $316,197, but a yearly cost at $450,394.
The respite center idea has incurred opposition, first from the Mace Ranch neighborhood and now from the Davis Manor neighborhood.
Previously, staff noted they anticipate “opposition to any location selected.”
In a Change.org petition, there are some concerns about the safety of an alleyway and the park.
From the Change.org petition, “This proposal has grossly neglected an utmost issue: the safety and security of our schoolchildren, the most vulnerable population.”
They add: “The impact of proposed homeless/respite 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 and elderly drastically outweighs the benefits of this proposed location.”
One resident of Davis Manor, however, painted a more optimistic picture of the response from the neighborhood and noted that about 40 people came out on November 23 at a Davis Manor Neighborhood meeting.
The organizer told the Vanguard that about two-thirds support the center at the location “if done well,” while another third was opposed “no matter what.”
They told me: “Almost all the concern is from the folks who live on Pomona with their backyard fences on the corridor between N St Park and the Community Gardens. They have had several instances of people climbing over and breaking into their houses. They are genuinely and deeply fearful, especially the two elderly woman living next door to each other and a woman who has been assaulted in the past, though not in Davis.”
The individual also told the Vanguard of about 114 unsheltered homeless individuals, only about 40 or so are using overnight shelter. The rest have either been “banned” or have “self-selected.”
That concern is echoed by some longtime homeless advocates, who believe that the respite center is not going to get chronically homeless individuals to trek from their campsites to the respite center or to an overnight shelter.
In a recent outreach session, Mayor Brett Lee, of whose idea this was, said, “You’re not a bad person if you have concerns about this facility.”
He then added that “hopefully by going through this process today, we will hear about some of your concerns and we’ll be able to figure out what we can address. And I’m confidant that we can address the majority of your concerns.”
He further added that “it’s going to be under a lot of scrutiny, and that’s my plan. This is a pilot. We want a lot of involvement. We want a lot of eyes. We want to know what we get right and what we get wrong.”
Chief Pytel said, “While I can completely understand some of the concerns from neighbors about the location of a respite center, and the type of presence that may bring, and the potential for some of the disorder and increases in crime… right now the crime is occurring all over town, it’s extremely difficult to police, and it’s extremely difficult to get people help, and to provide services when they’re all over.”
He said, while he’ll listen to neighbor concerns, “this is something I need to take a much stronger position on now, publicly. I am an absolute supporter of the respite center concept and having designated areas in town that people can go (to) and have some sense of safety and order.”
According to the staff report, “the pilot daytime respite center aims to improve the quality of life for individuals experiencing homelessness in Davis. Open daily for eight hours, the daytime center will provide a safe, temperature-controlled, and welcoming space where individuals can access basic needs resources and services.”
Among the services: individualized case management, permanent housing plans, service linkages, food, laundry, pet kennels, resting areas, restrooms, showers, storage, bike and vehicle parking.
The current staff plan calls for at least two people onsite during hours of operation, with a case manager for homeless outreach services available and daily transportation from the center to the winter shelter intake sites and a host congregation.
Staff also notes there will be a safety plan to address concerns that have been raised about crime in the area and safety of individuals living and working in the facility.
—David M. Greenwald reporting