Letter: Davis Needs a Permanent, Year-Round Shelter

Photo by Mihály Köles on Unsplash

Please join us at the May 16 City Council Meeting to advocate for this important goal!

By Shoshana Zatz

Many lessons, resolutions and plans will likely come out of last week’s tragic occurrences. One thing that became clearer to us is the need for a year-round permanent emergency shelter. HEART of Davis, along with other Davis community organizations concerned about our unsheltered neighbors, has been advocating for some time that shelter is needed beyond the winter months. As all of you know, summers here can be brutal with extreme heat and often unhealthy levels of smoke from nearby and distant wildfires. And safety is always a concern for those who are sheltering outside, as we learned only too well last week.

The death of David Breaux has sparked even more determination to provide a permanent year-round shelter. On May 16 the City Council will be receiving a Winter Shelter Debrief. We’d like to use this opportunity to request that a volunteer citizen task force be established and directed to research sites in Davis that may be feasible for the year-round shelter, identify potential funding sources, and develop a scope of services that will address the needs we’ve seen over the years. We know that City resources for such endeavors are stretched, and we, including two architects who have experience with housing, wish to volunteer to carry out the research, develop a preliminary design and begin the planning process, and then present our findings to the City.

We are aware of the City’s plan to conduct an in-depth “study” of homelessness in Davis that will result in a strategy for addressing the City’s homeless population, including a continuum of shelter and housing options. However, this study will take 3-9 months, according to the City’s Director of Social Services and Housing. We will certainly do our best to participate in and contribute to the study. However, we feel that a permanent year-round shelter cannot wait that long. Last October, when the Council discussed the plans for Winter Shelter, we heard from several of them that they wished to see a permanent shelter in place by the time the next Winter season was upon us. Waiting for the study to be completed delays this effort significantly, and we do not see why the two planning processes can’t be accomplished simultaneously. We realize that we will probably be unable to develop a new structure in the immediate future, but we are certain there are already-existing structures in the city that could be utilized in the interim for this purpose.

We do this work to honor David Breaux’ legacy of compassion and to garner support while concern is strongest. Again, the City Council will be receiving a Winter Shelter Debrief from City staff at their May 16th meeting. Please join us at that meeting to remind them of the urgency and community commitment to creating a permanent year-round shelter. Volunteers can do mighty things, and we’re offering our assistance in reaching this important goal. The Council’s approval will allow us to begin working immediately. If you are unable to attend the meeting, we ask that you please contact members of the City Council before May 16 and make your voice heard. (citycouncilmembers@cityofdavis.org) Our goal is to work in tandem with City staff and to see that work move in concert with the needs of the unhoused.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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