Sunday Commentary: They Have to Live Somewhere

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There has been a pattern developing this year – a policy is proposed by the city or the council, the public and various stakeholders rise up, and the council seemingly backs down or compromises.

We saw it with downtown parking as the council, after pushback, approved a scaled-down/watered down parking arrangement.  We saw it with Mace as the council, while not going back to the way it was, approved restoring a key stretch of Mace to two vehicle travel lanes in each direction.

We saw it with the respite center.  The council had decided to go with a Second Street location, then a few weeks ago a large number of Mace Ranch residents pushed back and the council switched to the corporation yards on Fifth Street.

At the time, I was concerned with the idea that the city would be backing down on a proposal based on probably unfounded fears of residents of that location.  But several insisted that they were not bowing to public pressure, rather they felt the Second Street site was too isolated from services and the downtown, and they preferred the much closer corporation yards.

Ok.  As staff predicted in their report from a few weeks ago, they anticipate “opposition to any location selected.”

As staff wrote at the time, “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.”

They also added, “It is unlikely any mitigation measures would change the view of those who oppose this location.”

With the move to the corporation yards, we are starting to see the prediction coming true – opposition to any location selected.

On Nextdoor someone pointed out with objection the “low admission barriers” for the respite center.

Language from the city proposal: “Low barrier to adhere to best practices, admission to the project needs to be low barrier. The City will not require participants to sign a service agreement or agree to case management to use the facilities and receive services. Past criminal records and the presence of chronic mental illness or drug addiction will not limit admission.”

The opposition put forth a Change.org petition with well over 100 signatures at the time of publication.

From public comment, 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.”

So, once again, there are concerns raised that homeless people are a threat to public safety, especially that of children.  There are no studies cited in the petition.  No evidence given.  It is once again a plea based, it would appear, on fear rather than data.

It was interesting listening to the police chief this week finally express his views on the issue.  He was notably absent when the council heard the matter early in November.

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.”

The question now is whether the council in November truly believed they were picking the correct spot for the respite center.  Will they hold fast even in the face of community pressure in the coming weeks?  Or will they try to compromise once again in an effort to soften the blow?

That is not to say if there are concerns about the alley, for example, they shouldn’t attempt to examine those and figure out if there is a way to improve them.  But rather, at some point the council needs to understand that every location in the city will have pushback and concerns, and unless your solution is to “put them on a bus,” you have to find a place to better provide them with shelter and services.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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26 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: They Have to Live Somewhere”

    1. Alan Miller

      I think what you are saying, really, is that ‘society’ should pay to have ‘them’ have a ‘roof’ over ‘their’ heads.

      Is that a correct interpretation?

  1. Rik Keller

    The article states “you have to find a place to better provide them with shelter and services.”

    The City staff report states that the temporary day-use only respite center idea will divert scarce resources from addressing the real identified critical issue and long-term need of expanding shelter beds and services. By advocating for this, the article is detracting from finding a place “to better provide them with shelter and services.”.

    1. Rik Keller

      As stated in the 7/7/2019 Staff Report:
      “If the goal is to devise a long-term shelter plan to address the rising number of persons experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Davis, then staff recommends foregoing all options [for the temporary day-use shelter] in lieu of examining the feasibility of siting a permanent, yearround overnight shelter…While staff recognizes the need to act now, as mentioned above, staff views establishing a permanent, year-round overnight shelter as one of the greatest unmet gaps in the City’s homeless services continuum…”

      And: “Given the workload associated with undertaking both a short-term and a long-term plan, staff recommends foregoing the day shelter component in the short-term and long-term. For the short-term, not only does the City already have the 1111 H Street resource center, but day shelter did not emerge as a top priority from the DOVe action plan or from a needs survey completed by this year’s IRWS participants…”

      1. Alan Miller

        but day shelter did not emerge as a top priority from the DOVe action plan

        I wonder if the pressure is coming from the Dowtown Business Association, with a fantasy that the so-called homeless who hang out downtown will be lured away by the joy a trailer with a view of a sand pile, surrounded by a stone wall?

    2. Rik Keller

      As stated in the 11/5/2019 Staff Report, this is a key option instead of doing the temporary day-use only respite center:
      Shift efforts to increasing support (financially and programmatically) to community based organizations. Rather than establishing a new program, the City could increase support for existing community based programs. For example, the City could increase financial and programmatic support for the IRWS, a volunteer-run shelter operating from December to mid-March….”

      And: “Another example are the numerous programs operated by 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 homeless services facility. Should the project receive entitlements, DCMH may need City assistance to temporarily relocate its resource center and 10- bed transitional housing project. In fact, the City is beholden to assist DCMH with the relocation of its transitional housing project since the City is the official recipient of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Supportive Housing Program grant that funds the project. Should the project receive entitlements, DCMH may also need long-term assistance operating the facility.”

      There was also this warning that diverting funding to the temporary respite center could impact existing programs such as DavisPathways: ” Unless new funding can be secured, the City may need to discontinue this innovative program, which has yielded positive results. Since being established in March 2016, Yolo County Housing, the program’s operator, permanently housed 20 individuals with 100% remaining stably housed.”

    3. Eric Gelber

      Rik – These are all good points. So, I’m wondering—who or what was the source of the day respite proposal and how did it get prioritized ahead of the alternative priority needs for homeless services?

      1. Rik Keller

        Eric: I know we had a little back-and-forth in an earlier article, so I thought I’d go in and pull some of the relevant info from the staff reports this time. If you want to see the full reports, the City has posted them here: https://www.cityofdavis.org/residents/social-services/daytime-homeless-respite-center

        I would be engaging in speculation about the reasons why the temporary day respite center got prioritized. But that won’t stop me!

        Part of it probably stems from a disconnect between elected officials and staff, and the sheer amount of volume that elected have to sort through.  How many of them actually read the full 75-page report from July?

        I think some of it is the usual desire by politicians to be seen doing something/anything in the short-term even if it detracts from long-term efforts.

        I think some of it is mission creep: you start down the path of someone’s pet project and the next thing you know, it becomes the central focus. Meanwhile projected costs keep spiraling upward…

         

        1. Rik Keller

          Note also that the title of the City’s webpage is “PILOT DAYTIME HOMELESS RESPITE CENTER”. That’s a nameable, tangible thing, as opposed to “we’re just going to make sure we increase funding for existing programs”. Politicians like the former compared to the latter. Campaigning on the latter doesn’t really strike a chord even though it may be the option that does the most good.

        2. Alan Miller

          Campaigning on the latter doesn’t really strike a chord even though it may be the option that does the most good.

          In future, potential city council-members will be campaigning on the slogan NIOD!

          (Not In Our District — and will be known as NIODYs)

  2. Alan Miller

    I was at the council meeting where Mayor Lee was quite critical that the respite center be up and running before temperatures drop and the rain starts.  The staff said it was possible, but would require rental of large items at significant expense.

    I wonder if anyone has noticed that the rains have started and the temperature has dropped.

    Has anyone done reconnaissance to bring the bodies of the homeless lost to the rain in from the drainage canals and along the railroad tracks and bike paths?

    (Will the respite center be up and running before the flowers bloom in the spring?)

  3. Alan Miller

    It is once again a plea based, it would appear, on fear rather than data.

    It’s interesting you then quote the police chief on two major points, leaving out the quote that you cited in your last article, where the police chief calls the so-called homeless batterers, thiefs and rapists.  Not in those words, but he says they commit those crimes on ‘each other’.   That not spilling out into the housed community, especially District 3, seems like fairy wishes.  If the base nature, according to the police chief, of many so-called homeless, includes the behaviors he listed, does it matter who the majority of the victims are, housed or un-housed? — and is the police chief stating this not ‘evidence’?  What about the attack on Jack Armstrong and his family at Market Place?  An unfortunate exception to your rule?  A “mentally ill” “criminal” who is not representative of the so-called homeless? Who was a so-called homeless person up until the attack, but an ‘exception’ once the attack occurred?

    Should I interpret this else-wise?  What say you?

  4. Alan Miller

    I have a prediction.  In the future, almost every ‘shelter’ or ‘facility’ or ‘half-way house’ or ‘mental health housing’ or similar will be located in District 3 (Downtown, Historic Neighborhoods, “Opportunity #gagmewithaspoon# Zone”, Davis Manor, West side of North Davis, Central Neighborhoods, East Davis, Davis Manor), or the west quarter of District 5 (South Davis – Olive, also in “Opportunity #gagmewithaspoon# Zone”).  Districts 1, 2, 4 and 3/4 of 5 will remain relatively free of “That kind of facility”.

    It’s called “privilege” or “social justice isn’t real”, i.e., ‘rich ‘burb people never put up with that sh*t, politically’.

    Districts should make this VERY interesting, politically.

    The center versus the rich ‘burbs.

    Mark my words.  I’m telling you:  I will be telling you –> I told you so.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Interestingly, what you describe are the areas best served by transit, and closest to medical/social services, overall… we certainly won’t want that!

    2. Don Shor

      I have a prediction. In the future, almost every ‘shelter’ or ‘facility’ or ‘half-way house’ or ‘mental health housing’ or similar will be located in District 3 (Downtown, Historic Neighborhoods, “Opportunity #gagmewithaspoon# Zone”, Davis Manor, West side of North Davis, Central Neighborhoods, East Davis, Davis Manor), or the west quarter of District 5

      Yep. Or “out in the country.”
      https://www.dailyrepublic.com/all-dr-news/solano-news/vacaville/thomson-county-intends-is-to-put-tiny-shelters-on-leisure-town-property/

  5. Alan Miller

    Still wondering thy DV/DG’s interpretation of “they have to live somewhere” and “the chief’s thoughts”, as I inquired above – before this thread sets in the south.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      My comment is that everyone is always arguing that their location is not a good one and yet, as we know they have to live somewhere, so ultimately the council is going to have to pick a spot.

      What’s the question on the chief’s thoughts?

      1. Rik Keller

        Greenwald stated that “ My comment is that everyone is always arguing that their location is not a good one and yet, as we know they have to live somewhere, so ultimately the council is going to have to pick a spot..”

        Before the 5th Street location was pushed forward out of the blue, you claimed that you were “location agnostic”, that you didn’t care what location was picked, and that people would complain no matter what the location was. This seems a strange attitude to have—that any location is as good or bad as any other.

        From a larger perspective, why does the Vanguard continue to ignore all of the analysis and guidance provided by City staff  that cautions against pursuing this temporary day-use facility in the first place because it will hamper efforts to address the most pressing homelessness needs that the City has identified?

      2. Alan Miller

        What’s the question on the chief’s thoughts?

        Not from this article, but the last one where the police chief calls the so-called homeless batterers, thiefs and rapists.  Not in those words, but he says they commit those crimes on ‘each other’.  I find it odd that the pro-so-called-homeless argument is often that the housed are just like the unhoused, and the housed commit crimes, too.  Yet here, the police chief seems to be saying that they commit crimes on ‘each other’ all the time, including especially sexual assault.  Were the housed doing these crimes on ‘each other’ in the manner described by the chief, that would be of quite a concern, and I am beyond skeptical that such crimes remain isolated to so-called-homeless upon so-called-homeless activity.

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