By Pavan Potti
DAVIS — During the Social Service Commission meeting on Jan. 25, city staff members presented the first annual results of the Respite Center Pilot Program, a program aimed at providing services for unhoused people in Davis.
Data presented by city staff member Dago Fierros indicated healthy participation turnouts and results as well as reasonable cost of operations. The emphasis of the presentation, however, was to display a sense of optimism moving forward, especially in light of the active pandemic.
Fierros provided background information about the program, stating how the pilot program began in late Feb. 2020 for unhoused individuals. Services provided by the program include safe and temperature controlled resting areas, individual case management, food, laundry, veterinary services and restrooms and showers.
Yet, the program immediately felt the impact of COVID-19, which forced lockdowns only a month later in March. The program was forced to transition into a pandemic-safe environment for its participants in a short period of time.
Fierros also provided some statistics relating to service linkages. According to Fierros, there were 5,004 visits and 341 participants over the past 11 months. Out of these participants, 61 (18 percent) were linked to CalFresh, 50 (15 percent) were linked to permanent housing, 131(38 percent) were linked to motels, 57 (17 percent) were linked to Medi-Cal and 34 (10 percent) were linked to Mental Health/Psychiatric services.
Fierros further added how the total cost of operations for the program over the past 11 months was $382,500.
Although the commission members expressed agreement that the costs and results of the program were satisfactory, slight doubt was expressed in relation to how the participation numbers had increased from the previous count of 190, just a few months prior.
One public commenter stated that the burst of participation looked really high and made it “hard to believe.”
In response, Fierros attempted to assure the commission members that there is an on-going effort within the program to get a sense of where these individuals were coming from and what their background is. Fierros stated that this information would be especially easy to attain considering the program’s structure in treating all participants as individual cases.
Apart from the participation rate, the committee also proceeded to question how the program intended to extend their services over the next 12 months.
Physician Don Kalman stated that extending the program over the next 12 months would be not be an adequate way to test the program in a pandemic free environment because the pandemic may still be in play at that point.
Kalman further referred to a survey of the neighborhood surrounding the Respite Center. About 1,100 surveys were sent out; however only 130 were returned. Of the surveys returned, 65 opposed the pilot program suggesting a low number of people upset with the program.
In response to Kalman’s claims, Fierros emphasized that with the pandemic starting only a month after the program began, there was not much time to significantly alter any long-term plans of the programs. By figuring out where these participants are coming from, there could be a better chance to allocate resources and get help where needed.
The council decided to continue the Respite Center Pilot program for another year.
Pavan is a third year student studying Economics from Fremont, California.