Davis Closes Homeless Winter Shelter



By Lauren Smith


DAVIS, CA – “We made the tough decision to close [the winter shelter] for the season” city staff member Dago Fierros state during Monday night’s Social Services Commission meeting.


“There were a lot of challenges that occurred [including] resources challenges [and] safety issues” Fierros continued.


“We contracted with Heart of Davis to run the day-to-day programs, they weren’t able to get adequate staff out there…and right now the situation with COVID and everything, just being able to hire qualified individuals…the lack of staff out there and the number of individuals that planned to be housed out there provided a big risk for not staff but also the individuals in the program,” Fierros elaborated. “There were a lot of calls made out to the police department and just the ratios were off out there.”


However, no further detail was provided regarding the police department calls or where all the individuals who planned to be housed out there were going to be living.


Fierros stated that the city is currently “working on housing the most medically vulnerable, up to 10, in hotel and motel rooms and then we’re working collaboratively with the congregations and other groups in Davis to house at least 10 more, so we’re doing something for the most medically vulnerable for now and then revisiting the program next winter.”


Commission Chair Judith Ennis expressed that this news is “obviously very disappointing” while commission member Susan Perez expressed the desire to “create more opportunities for the unhoused” and wondered about the “lessons learned” from this closure so the commission can “ensure future success” next season.


Fierros stated that the city is “still gathering more information as to what went wrong, what went well, and what could be done better” but “will be able to provide more insight” to the commission and seek their input “the next go around,” not expanding on what that time frame is.


In the meantime, Fierros stated that folks are being directed to 4th and Hope located in Woodland and “reaching out to other shelters in the area” to help provide services to the unhoused community.


Assistant City Manager Kelly Stachowicz shared that the point-in-time count, a countywide count conducted every other year “of individuals who are unsheltered on a given night,” will be taking place this week. These results will take “a month or so” and the information will help with planning and preparing services for the unhoused community “for the next couple of years.” Stachowicz did not explain what the city would offer unhoused people in the meantime.


Ennis stated, “we look forward to further updates about this as the next few months go on…I personally would welcome further opportunities to talk through and strategize as the plans develop for the shelters next year and put it on the long range calendar…I hope we learn a lot from this and have a better experience next season.”


“We tried moving fast,” Fierros concluded, not detailing what that meant. “We tried doing something good, but hopefully we have time to kind of carefully put this together and come up with a successful program” for next year.



About The Author

Jordan Varney received a masters from UC Davis in Psychology and a B.S. in Computer Science from Harvey Mudd. Varney is editor in chief of the Vanguard at UC Davis.

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5 thoughts on “Davis Closes Homeless Winter Shelter”

  1. Alan Miller

    However, no further detail was provided regarding the police department calls or where all the individuals who planned to be housed out there were going to be living.

    Um, there are two examples later in your own article about where the people were moved to.

  2. Alan Miller

    In the DE article they state there were “public safety concerns”.  What public?  There is absolutely no one out there – even the nearest farmhouses aren’t adjacent, and I’m sure those few living near there on farms have guns like most rural folk due to the police response time, and if they didn’t they do now.  So the only ‘public’ having safety concerns are the people out there at the center – in other words there were concerns some of those residing there were a safety threat to others residing there.

    Also in the DE — there were ‘unforeseen’ issues with the distance to the shelter and the isolation from services.  How was this ‘unforeseen’ ?  I’m not sure people understand just how far out of town the immigrant housing center is.  I walked out there one night long ago when I needed to clear my head — it took me nearly three hours one way.  It’s a two-hour walk or 1/2-hour bike ride to Nugget or Target, the nearest Markets.

    Again, what was unforeseen?  Chico put a homeless shelter at a warehouse in the industrial area near their airport.  This is miles but not nearly as far out of town as Davis tried, and they had problems on how to get people there and with the lack of facilities and stores.  Part of doing something is making checking on best practices and other town’s experiences.

    Also in DE, they said the rules needed to be enforced.  But how does one enforce rules in the absence of enforcement personnel — or, it seems, personnel at all.  In my book and in the book of many, the main rule is “no getting f*cked up” — i.e. no alcohol or drug use.  I’ve talked to homeless in town and current and former workers who say the biggest threat to those trying to get clean is the presence of those who have and are using drugs.  But the “new way” is to have misplaced compassion for the user as priority, a policy that only enables the user and harms others.  I’d bet my unicorn that almost all the problems were caused or enhance by substance abuse.

    There were multiple police calls some nights – with about a fifteen minute response time from the police station.  That’s a huge crush on police resources removed from the City – if it’s a one-hour call, the car is away from Davis for 1-1/2 hours.  Now you have a City police car in the middle of nowhere with 40 people and a disturbance and probably altered states in the mix.  Fabulous.

    There’s also cleanup before the migrant season.  People were having belongings brought out there beyond the rules, and my experience with homeless camps is the residents are (to put it nicely) not skilled at cleaning up after themselves.  The place will need to be cleaned up thoroughly, as safety is an issue because the migrant camp houses families with children — so there can’t be any dangerous items left behind inside or hidden in the soil.

    Maybe this can work someday, but I am doubtful without careful planning, strict rules, sufficient transportation, and sufficient staffing including security.

  3. Bill Marshall

    The concept of  ‘5 miles out’… east to west, Davis is wider than that…

    The concept of “”fifteen minute response time from the police station”… unlike Fire Dept services, Police officers are not ‘dispatched’ from the police station, most officers are ‘out and about’ on any given shift… even if that were not the case, the 15 minutes seems unlikely, unless @ “peak hour”, which is not when the shelter was generally operational, and when “calls for service” would be received.

    Alan M is correct… most likely, the calls for service were ‘internal’, not external… and many may have been ‘medical’… I don’t know.

    Alan M is also correct, that supervision may have been a contributing factor, along with clear rules…

    Interestingly, the inter-faith groups have no longer offered their facilities… I suspect (being a member of one of the congregations that did provide evening/night shelter), that it is more Covid-related than behavior-related…

    There are several other points Alan M makes that I question, but understand why he might look thru different lens than I do… my contacts with the homeless have been different than what he likely has had… both views are valid, given our experiences…

    1. Alan Miller

      OK, aware of that, but the police station is on the east side of town, and just as likely there is no patrol in South Davis as that there is, so response time could also be even longer.  Most of the land of Davis is further than the police station, and it is eight (8) non-highway miles to the migrant center from the police station.  I stand on my point.

      If you disagree with other points, no harm in sharing your views.  If you are working a faith center, you may run across more down-and-out who had a bad streak of economic issues and looking to get back on their feet, and less of the addicted who want to live outside and get high away from rules.  So yes, there could be a difference there in our experiences if that’s what you meant.

      Of course, on the coldest nights, even the addicted “no rulez” types don’t want to shiver in the cold and so there is more mixing of the different groups. That may be where some of the conflicts are arising (pure speculation on my part).

      1. Ron Oertel

        If you are working a faith center, you may run across more down-and-out who had a bad streak of economic issues and looking to get back on their feet, and less of the addicted who want to live outside and get high away from rules.

        My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that they might be (largely) the same group.  The “difference” being that (all) people react more positively, when someone is trying to help them. Especially if they seek it out.

        Not that it changes their behavior after exiting that setting.

        Ultimately, this might also be the same reason that David has a different view of those who are incarcerated, than “most” people do. No one is an a-hole all of the time. Even “Kahn”, in reference to your other recent comment.

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