A few weeks ago, the Davis City Council moved the site of the proposed respite center for homeless individuals from a Second Street location to the corporation yards. A number of residents came to that meeting to oppose the Second Street location, expressing concerns about safety.
As noted in a staff report, “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.”
For a variety of reasons, the council concluded that the Corp Yard at 1717 Fifth street was a better location – closer to downtown, nearer to services.
That has now generated a number of emails of concern from Davis Manor residents. A few of them came to public comment on Tuesday.
One resident said “there is an unpaved and unmonitored alley that connects N Street Park to the Davis Community Garden. The park is already an issue and littered with trash, liquor bottles, graffiti…”
She said, “The no man strip will likely be a hiding place that presents a public safety hazard.” She believes the play area in the park will be used even less now by families and residents. “I fear this new center will make the area even less safe.”
She asked the city to close the alley in order to improve the safety.
Another resident also expressed concern about that alleyway, which she described as “dirty” and “unmonitored.”
She said, “Do not build the low monitored center there. You are going to truly negatively affect an already low income area of the city and do more harm than good.”
Previously, neighbors from Mace Ranch came to council to complain about the Second Street location.
One person stated, “I’m not in favor of the Second Street site, but we have to put it someplace else. It’s just not safe for our kids.”
“We do care about the problem, the homeless. It is a big problem here in Davis. But we need to come up with a solution that works for everybody. The Second Street one just doesn’t work for everybody,” a man said. “A lot of us here on Arroyo Avenue feel like this was shoved down our throats… No one reached out to us.”
Notably absent from that meeting was Police Chief Darren Pytel. But after questions about the homeless on Tuesday, he finally spoke out in favor of the respite center.
Will Arnold asked about the issues surrounding the placement of the respite center.
When asked if there was an increased level of violence, Darren Pytel responded, “Not really.
“Here’s the reality, we do have a crime set involving (the) homeless. But for the most part they victimize each other,” he said. “I have told everyone who will listen, one of my biggest concerns for many many years is how much they actually victimize each other.”
They steal from each other, beat each other, and the women are sexually assaulted continuously.
“I have expressed deep concern about the women who are living homeless and are out and about… and the things they are doing to each other,” he said. “I think it’s one of the tragedies occurring in the city right now.
“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.”
The discussion in Davis comes at a time when homelessness is a concern, not just in Davis but across the state.
On Wednesday, Governor Newsom pushed back on roadblocks “erected by Trump administration to get Emergency Homeless Aid working in California communities.”
The state budget includes $1 billion in funding to fight homelessness, which includes $650 million for emergency homeless aid.
Governor Newsom said, “The State of California is not going to wait to get Emergency Homelessness Aid working in California cities and counties. Californians shouldn’t have to wait any longer to see this emergency funding deployed.”
On Wednesday, he also announced national expert, former executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Matthew Doherty, will advise California on homeless matters.
“Having led the Council on Homelessness under both Republican and Democratic presidents, I have seen first-hand that cities and states acting alone are not going to be able to fund the solutions that are required to meet this challenge. Much more federal investment is needed to make meaningful progress and solve this crisis,” said Mr. Doherty.
—David M. Greenwald reporting