Faced with an urgent need to provide shelter and services for the city’s growing homeless population, but without such facilities currently available, officials here are considering erecting an emergency facility that could be available well before a permanent navigation center planned for northern Palm Springs.
Details such as location, cost, and funding are still to be determined. But as outlined by City Manager Scott Stiles Monday evening, the proposed emergency shelter would have 95 beds and serve only the unhoused residents of the city. It would not be a drop-in facility but rather require a referral from police or its operators, Martha’s Village & Kitchen.
The emergency facility is a particularly urgent need, councilmembers were told, given the fact Palm Springs has no permanent overnight shelter and typically doesn’t open temporary shelters until harsh winter or summer weather arrives.
While plans are again moving forward to open temporary overnight shelter for between 15 and 30 people on July 1, opening a larger facility would give police more options as they work to aid an estimated 400-plus unhoused residents who are increasingly gathering in encampments.
“Officers who deal with the homeless living in these encampments often hear, ‘“OK you don’t want me here, where would you like me?’” Police Chief Andy Mills said Monday evening. “…We need the ability to say you cannot live under this bus shelter, you need to go over to this location.”
Of particular focus, both Stiles and Mills said, would be which unhoused residents were eligible to reside at the shelter. No matter where the shelter is ultimately located, they said, it would not operate similar to the drop-in access center located near Palm Springs International Airport off El Cielo Road.
“We cannot allow just random walk-up access,” said Mills. “If that happens, people will congregate to a location where they think they will get services.”
The proposal drew broad support from all five members of the City Council, some of whom have grown frustrated with the pace of progress on an 80-unit facility being built on 3.6 acres off McCarthy Road. At least one councilmember asked that it not be built near any city neighborhood — a request that was acknowledged by Stiles.
“We need a sense of urgency in everything we do in this area,” said Palm Springs City Councilmember Lisa Middleton, who joined her colleagues in support of moving forward on the project. “There are far, far too many people that are on the street … but we’ve got to have the beds available and we do not have those beds available right now.”
There was no action asked of the Council Monday evening. Additional details and requests are expected to come before the Council at its next meeting, currently scheduled for April 27.