Sunday Commentary: If the Respite Center Went Away, There Would Still Be Problems and They May Be Worse

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By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – The city council this week extended the Respite Center until June 2023.  Really, what choice did they have?

The Respite Center was associated with a rise in incidents as noted in the staff report.

Staff for example notes, “Numerous individuals hang out around the Center but do not access services, and often engage in behaviors in the vicinity of the Center that are not appropriate and result in calls for service or increased frustrations from business and residential neighbors.”

The data shows an increase of calls right around the Respite Center, though most of the calls do not go into the neighborhood but are rather focused on the businesses in the immediate vicinity.

There was some pushback.

“The city is creating the exact thing that they are trying to mitigate,” one resident complained.

I get it.  I am sure that there are ways that the city can improve upon the Respite Center.

I would add, in fairness to the program, that the Respite Center opened and then, bam, the pandemic hit and changed everything.  So even granting there were some hiccups here, I also believe that the time was unusual enough that we should not draw too broad a conclusion.

That point aside, is it a wise idea to get rid of the Respite Center even if these problems continue?

I would argue no.  I would argue that the Respite Center did not create the problems associated with it.  It may have, of course, relocated those problems.

The problem is that there is an unhoused population in town that is increasingly unsheltered and not receiving services.

We will get a better idea in April as to just how many are unhoused and unsheltered.  Yolo County just announced that they just completed their 2022 Homeless Point in Time Count—something they were unable to do in 2021.  The full report will be out in April 2022.

The Respite Center’s presence then relocates many of the people to that location who had been elsewhere.  Therefore, the problems associated with the population are then not being generated by the center, but rather relocated.

For instance, I have noticed in the last two years, between the Respite Center and Project Roomkey, a marked drop in the number of homeless people in the streets of downtown.

So, if we got rid of the Respite Center, presumably a lot of that population would move back toward the downtown.  Moreover, the Respite Center offers support and services to help the people who utilize the center.

“Overall, the Respite Center has been a valuable addition to the spectrum of services available throughout the Davis community to assist unhoused individuals,” the city staff wrote in its staff report.  “It has been fortuitous that the Center opened just as the pandemic started; our ability as a community to keep the most vulnerable members safe was greatly enhanced by having this resource.”

Staff notes that, through the Center, the community is able to provide “positive assistance to individuals” and as the new Department of Social Services becomes operational, “staff will be looking at the City’s overall homelessness strategy, which will include the Respite Center, its services, its location and its setup, in search of continuous improvement.”

All of that is critical.  But Davis really needs to find the resources for nighttime shelter, and ultimately permanent supportive housing.

As Vice Mayor Lucas Frerichs put it, “It is absolutely an invaluable resource and I also think we can do better for the neighborhood as well.”

As Will Arnold put it, “We had to come to the conclusion that there’s no good place to put it but it’s got to go somewhere. But the work that’s being done, the positive impact on folks’ lives is evident… this is really something that provides a needed service in our community.”

He’s right—it had to go somewhere and there was no really good place to put it.  But the other end of that is that the people involved also have to go somewhere.  They might as well go to a place where they get offered services and some supervision rather than being turned out alone on the streets.

The city will now have a chance to continue to figure out better ways to do this as the people involved continue to get services and daytime shelter.

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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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22 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: If the Respite Center Went Away, There Would Still Be Problems and They May Be Worse”

  1. Ron Glick

    Sure, Sure. They would do their thing elsewhere but the impact would be more diffuse. What needs to happen is there needs to be an increased police presence in the surrounding area as crime deterrence.

  2. Don Shor

    For instance, I have noticed in the last two years, between the Respite Center and Project Roomkey, a marked drop in the number of homeless people in the streets of downtown.

    So, if we got rid of the Respite Center, presumably a lot of that population would move back toward the downtown.  Moreover, the Respite Center offers support and services to help the people who utilize the center.

    So clearly we need another respite center downtown.

    1. Alan Miller

      If the Respite Center is averaging 1.5 laundry runs and 2 showers as reported, no, another is not needed.  Perhaps shut it down and rent a hotel room instead, which would provide that much per day.

  3. Keith Y Echols

    Maybe the Respite Center would be better located on 2nd Street?

    Maybe locating the Respite Center on the outskirts of town might be the one peripheral development project the city could unite behind.  A Measure J project could actually pass and get built.  Maybe tie an affordable housing project to go along with the Respite Center…..I dunno, just spit balling ideas.

    1. Don Shor

      Maybe locating the Respite Center on the outskirts of town might be the one peripheral development project the city could unite behind.

      Any respite center or other facility for the homeless needs to be near grocery stores or food service businesses, and has to be readily accessible by foot or bicycle.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        Any respite center or other facility for the homeless needs to be near grocery stores or food service businesses, and has to be readily accessible by foot or bicycle.

        So create a mixed use affordable housing project that includes a neighborhood grocery.  How close does it have to be to the grocery store?  If you built off of Mace then there’s Nugget right on the other side of the freeway.  Why does it have to be  near food service businesses?  They’re homeless, so they’re not likely going to be high paying customers.  If they’re receiving left over food, then I’m sure some arrangement could be made for having it transported from the restaurants to the respite center….and I’m guessing many restaurants would probably prefer that solution.

    2. Don Shor

      Maybe the Respite Center would be better located on 2nd Street?

      That was the initial proposal. It got shot down due to vigorous opposition from residents of South Davis across the freeway.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        That was the initial proposal. It got shot down due to vigorous opposition from residents of South Davis across the freeway.

        That’s weird since there’s a railroad AND a freeway between them and 2nd street.  I don’t see how homeless people walking over the Pole Line overpass or the Mace overpass to get groceries would overly impact the residential areas of South Davis.

      2. Alan Miller

        It got shot down due to vigorous opposition from residents of South Davis across the freeway.

        Yes it did.  By considerably wealthier people in an area of town with a higher home-ownership percentage and homes about $100k higher in average value than where it ended up.  Where is the environmental justice in that?

    3. Alan Miller

      A Measure J project could actually pass and get built.

      I like it:  Respite Center DISC and Respite Center Bretton Woods.  Foist it onto new residents who can’t vote yet.

  4. Ron Oertel

    I’m curious as to the problems that Don has experienced/witnessed, along with the reason that he apparently believes other locations should also experience those problems.

    And, how many of these people came over from Sacramento, for example? If I had to personally choose in this situation, I’d choose Davis.

    Build more respite centers (and more housing for homeless people), and that’s exactly what you’ll get – more homeless people.

    How many “respite centers” or homeless shelters does Granite Bay have? (And, how many homeless people do they have, despite astronomical housing prices there?)

    1. Ron Oertel

      Though I guess you can argue that at around $600K/unit in state money (and whatever other costs they generate), they might not be “homeless” anymore.

      Just drug-addicted and/or mentally ill, for the most part.

      I will say that the new “semi-homeless” building at Creekside is pretty attractive – the building itself. For that matter, a lot better-looking than Sterling or that hideous-looking West Village apartment complex.

      Actually don’t know a lot about the clientele, however.

      1. Ron Oertel

        That’s a completely meaningless chart, regarding the actual question.

        The “home” for homeless people is wherever they happen to be, at the moment.  Or, wherever they left their tent. And if some cities are more willing to provide it than other cities, they’ll end up being the “host” city. Especially if the weather is somewhat decent year-round.

        But again I’d ask what problems you’ve seen (given that you don’t like its current location, which I understand to be near your business), and the reason that you want to transfer those problems elsewhere:

        Don:  So clearly we need another respite center downtown.

        1. Don Shor

          But again I’d ask what problems you’ve seen (given that you don’t like its current location, which I understand to be near your business), and the reason that you want to transfer those problems elsewhere:

          Problems and incidents have been described to city staff by the neighboring residents and businesses. They are mostly property crimes, public nuisances, and some scary interactions with people who appear to need mental health and/or substance abuse services.
          I do not oppose the current location. I support the renewal of the contract and continuation of services there. I simply believe that it is overburdened: too many people for one site. So I suggest that, since most of the people making use of it are local to Davis and not likely to just “go away,” there should be more respite centers in other parts of the city. The impact should be shared, not concentrated in one neighborhood.

        2. Ron Oertel

          I support the renewal of the contract and continuation of services there.

          O.K. – I’ve had a different impression of your comments regarding this series of articles.

          I simply believe that it is overburdened: too many people for one site.

          “Overburdened” meaning too large of an impact on the neighborhood?

          So I suggest that, since most of the people making use of it are local to Davis and not likely to just “go away,” there should be more respite centers in other parts of the city.

          Again, I’m not gathering that these folks are primarily “from” Davis.  It could be that the services available to them in the city (and the relatively-tolerant view of the populace) is drawing them in to “live” in Davis.

          If they are “from” Davis, you’d think that the “world-class public education system” would have prepared them to succeed, right?

          The impact should be shared, not concentrated in one neighborhood.

          This sounds like NIMBYism to me.  “Not In My Business’ Yard”.  Can’t say that I blame you, unless you also engage in calling others NIMBYs.

          Regardless, it could be that the impact would just increase (as a result of drawing-in more people from the region and beyond), and not be “transferred-away” from the existing respite center.

          In any case, I don’t see your proposal as a realistic one to be funded. So whatever problems you’re dealing with are likely to remain.

  5. Alan Miller

    what choice did they have?

    Close it down.  Move it.

    The Respite Center was associated with a rise in incidents as noted in the staff report.

    Disproportionately effecting those nearby.  As we said would happen.

    “Numerous individuals hang out around the Center but do not access services, and often engage in behaviors in the vicinity of the Center that are not appropriate and result in calls for service or increased frustrations from business and residential neighbors.”

    Yup.

    The data shows an increase of calls right around the Respite Center, though most of the calls do not go into the neighborhood but are rather focused on the businesses in the immediate vicinity.

    Does that include along 5th Street?  Or is “the neighborhood” only Davis Manor?

    There was some pushback.

    And there always will be until it is moved or closed.

    “The city is creating the exact thing that they are trying to mitigate,”

    Yup.

    I get it.  I am sure that there are ways that the city can improve upon the Respite Center.

    Yup.

    I would add, in fairness to the program, that the Respite Center opened and then, bam, the pandemic hit and changed everything.  So even granting there were some hiccups here, I also believe that the time was unusual enough that we should not draw too broad a conclusion.

    The City drew a broad conclusion in extending the contract.

    That point aside, is it a wise idea to get rid of the Respite Center even if these problems continue?

    No, just move it to a rich suburb of Davis.  I can think of a half dozen neighborhoods that are not yet disproportionately effected by the ‘homeless’ population.  It’s their turn.  Districts 1,2,4,5 — Do you hear me?!?!!

    I would argue no.  I would argue that the Respite Center did not create the problems associated with it.

    No, concentrated and focused those problems.

    It may have, of course, relocated those problems.

    Concentrated and focused those problems.

    The problem is that there is an unhoused population in town that is increasingly unsheltered and not receiving services.

    Or just pain increasing.

    The Respite Center’s presence then relocates many of the people to that location who had been elsewhere.

    No, concentrated and focused those problems.

    Therefore, the problems associated with the population are then not being generated by the center, but rather relocated.

    No, concentrated and focused those problems.

    For instance, I have noticed in the last two years, between the Respite Center and Project Roomkey, a marked drop in the number of homeless people in the streets of downtown.

    Better for you downtown.  Worse for those of us within a few blocks of 5th & L.  Another reason could be:  Less people downtown due to Covid-19, less people with money to ask money of.

    So, if we got rid of the Respite Center, presumably a lot of that population would move back toward the downtown.

    Not if we directed them towards services in Willow Bank, North Davis Farms, College Park or Stonegate.

    Moreover, the Respite Center offers support and services to help the people who utilize the center.

    Yes, all 1.5 laundry runs and 2 showers per day.

    “Overall, the Respite Center has been a valuable addition to the spectrum of services available throughout the Davis community to assist unhoused individuals,” the city staff wrote in its staff report.

    Shouldn’t the Vanguard staff insist the City staff writing such a narrative provide evidence before publishing in an article?  Should not some support documentation from the staff be requested along with a statement that he or she has expended a reasonable effort to verify these claims? Shouldn’t the City staff provide some minimal evidence to support their  claim? If not, then at least the Vanguard should provide an introductory disclaimer that the validity of the staff’s claims have not been independently verified, and that the staff has not voluntarily provided to the Vanguard evidence of validation.

    “It has been fortuitous that the Center opened just as the pandemic started; our ability as a community to keep the most vulnerable members safe was greatly enhanced by having this resource.”

    Then why did the five massive camps spring up in Spring of 2020 in the railroad triangle, directly threatening our neighborhood.  That neither kept the “most vulnerable members” who are unhoused safe nor did it keep the “most vulnerable members” who are housed safe.  It was a bloody sh*tshow.

    Staff notes that, through the Center, the community is able to provide “positive assistance to individuals”

    See paragraph above that begins with “Shouldn’t . . . ”

    and as the new Department of Social Services becomes operational, “staff will be looking at the City’s overall homelessness strategy,

    Again . . .

    which will include the Respite Center, its services, its location and its setup, in search of continuous improvement.”

    In other words, suck it up Davis Manor, Old East Davis, and 7-11.

    All of that is critical.

    It’s talk, anyhow.

    But Davis really needs to find the resources for nighttime shelter,

    And locate it in District 1,2, 4 or 5.

    and ultimately permanent supportive housing.

    Good luck with that.  Paul’s Place II, Paul’s Place III, Paul’s Place IV, Paul’s Place V, Paul’s Place VI, Paul’s Place VII, Paul’s Place VIII, Paul’s Place IX . . .

    And OOOOPS . . . my finger slipped and I actually need another $2million to build each new Paul’s Place cuz I putz the decimal where the comma go and no one double checked my work oops I’m sorry ;-(  So we’ll have to ask the County for more money cuz they so sweet 😐

    “It is absolutely an invaluable resource and I also think we can do better for the neighborhood as well.”

    Maybe and Yes.

    As Will Arnold put it, “We had to come to the conclusion that there’s no good place to put it but it’s got to go somewhere.

    Such as “Not in my District”.

    But the work that’s being done, the positive impact on folks’ lives is evident… this is really something that provides a needed service in our community.”

    (Too easy)

    He’s right—it had to go somewhere and there was no really good place to put it.

    So put it in District 3.

    But the other end of that is that the people involved also have to go somewhere.

    That’s what the HAL (Homeless Advocate Lawyer) whispered in my ear creepily from behind at a City Council meeting.

    They might as well go to a place where they get offered services and some supervision rather than being turned out alone on the streets.

    And that place is in District 3.  Suck it up, nearby neighborhoods.

    The city will now have a chance to continue to figure out better ways to do this as the people involved continue to get services and daytime shelter.

    And will fail.  Two years was quite enough time for the City to prove itself.

  6. Don Shor

    To me there are two significant data points from the city staff presentation.

    This is a very clear indication of how the respite center is impacting the neighborhood. I understand that staff is very invested in the program. Unfortunately, based on the reported comments from staff they appear to be quite defensive about the criticisms and don’t seem to be actually acknowledging the impacts. Council needs to address this.

    Two thirds of those using the facility are not making use of the social services that are at the core of the argument for this center. Why are they being served if they aren’t accepting case management? This is fundamental and needs to be addressed by the council.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I agree that the city needs to address impacts. That’s clear and an ongoing point of concern. In terms of accepting services, the respite center operation does not require them to do so. The city can offer them, give them an opportunity, but in the end, it’s up to the people as to whether they accept them.

      1. Don Shor

        the respite center operation does not require them to do so. The city can offer them, give them an opportunity, but in the end, it’s up to the people as to whether they accept them.

        Is that a matter of policy? It does not seem like an efficient use of city funds to pay for services for people who are not willing to accept services.

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