After breakup with city, Well in the Desert’s work continues; renewed relationship not likely

A year after the relationship between the city and nonprofit homeless services provider Well in the Desert began to go sour, the organization is asking why the city won’t consider renewing ties, especially as it works to build out a large project to address homelessness. Palm Springs officials say the answer has a lot to do with issues raised during the breakup.

Driving the news: Palm Springs is moving rapidly to build out a “homeless navigation center” in the city. Among other things, it would include temporary housing, healthcare, and meal services.

  • The city and Riverside County are partnering on the project. Indio-based Martha’s Village & Kitchen will run things.

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Details: Martha’s and the city have proven to be successful partners after the organization was tapped to run a cooling center near the airport last summer. The move came after years of complaints by neighbors who live near a similar center operated by Well in the Desert off South Calle Encilia.

  • After the city refused to renew The Well’s permit at South Calle Encilia, leadership at The Well took all the parties involved to task.

    • In a September 2021 Facebook post, Well Vice President Matt Naylor called Martha’s leadership and county representatives “major failures” and predicted that, “When you see more homeless in downtown streets, you will see [their] failure.”

Yes, but: There are indeed more homeless on the streets of Palm Springs than there were last year. Police and city officials have explained many issues factor into that. Still, Naylor and Arlene Rosenthal, president of The Well, say the increased homeless population proves their point and that it’s vital the city once again collaborate with their organization.

  • “We believe we have the ability to help with the growing problems downtown, but this council will not meet with us, nor listen. Isn’t it time they take us seriously?” they asked in conversations with The Post and in a recent Desert Sun column. “After 25 years and all of our efforts, we are worth being included in this very serious conversation.”

No change: In an email last week, City Manager Justin Clifton said the city is sticking with its decision to partner solely with Martha’s at the navigation center and elsewhere. That decision was partially due to how the cooling center move went down.

  • “(O)ver the course of those conversations, things got increasingly contentious with representatives of Well in the Desert. …The more staff looked into Martha’s operation the more impressed we were. In the end these conversations resulted in Martha’s being the sole partner with the city to provide services.”

Still at work: Whether or not the city and The Well ever partner again, Naylor said it’s important for the community to know Well in the Desert is still working to care for those in need.

  • “The Well serves hundreds and hundreds of nutritious daily meals five days a week, including outreach to those who are unable to make it to our lunch sites,” he wrote. “We show love and compassion towards those seeking our services.”

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