The Palm Springs City Council unanimously approved another $5 million in funding on Thursday to go towards the homeless navigation center planned off McCarthy Road. The money will be used for additional costs for the center and to add an early entry facility.
With that money approved, construction can begin on the navigation center by the end of next month, with completion estimated for sometime in February of next year. When staff were going over construction bids for the project, most were more than $15 million over budget due to material and supply shortages, increased interest rates, and cost increases, said Jay Virata, Director of Community & Economic Development for Palm Springs.
Greg Rodriguez, the deputy director of Housing and Workforce Solutions for Riverside County, said supply chain issues and projects running over budget are being seen throughout the state, and even in other projects in Palm Springs.
“We’ve had many affordable housing projects, including the Monarch, that have come back and asked the county for more dollars,” he said at Thursday night’s meeting, referring to the apartment project located on North Indian Canyon and San Rafael Drive. “This is a system-wide problem.”
Still, the development team was able to reduce the navigation center project cost by $10 million by revising plans, which include turning building 8 from administration offices into the early entry facility, and moving some office functions to building C, which previously was not included in the plans. They also reduced the size of the commercial kitchen and dining room in building 24, removed the loading dock and reduced interior landscaping, in addition to several other changes.
A staff report describes the early entry facility as an important bridge in the process of getting people off the street and into the on-site private modular units that are considered transitional housing. In order to stay in one of the facility’s 50 beds, an unhoused person needs to have acquired a referral from the Emergency Access Center on El Cielo.
The nearest emergency shelters that would serve this purpose are in Indio, and the distance adds unnecessary complications, said the staff report. Without the early entry facility, the staff report said unhoused people would go back to finding shelter in encampments, tents or cars.
Nearly a dozen residents also took the opportunity to make public comments at Thursday’s council meeting. Five of those residents spoke about the navigation center, and all five were against the approval of more money for the project.
“I believe that the navigation center is being expanded beyond what the city has promised its neighbors during outreach discussions,” one resident, William Marta, said. Several other residents echoed his statement almost exactly, emphasizing that they felt betrayed by city leaders.
Others also expressed worries about safety and loitering. The staff report, however, made clear that the facility will not provide walk-up services. Several staff and councilmembers also said they feel confident that the facility will be safe through their partnership with Martha’s Village and Kitchen. “Martha’s has an incredible track record of security and good neighbor policy,” Rodriguez assured residents.
Rodriguez, who has been working on the project for the past three years, stressed that the transitional housing model that the navigation center is based on is one of the most effective ways to get people off the street.
“When people tell us to stop this project, I don’t know what they want us to do instead,” he said. When residents call for emergency shelters instead, Rodriguez said those only have a success rate of 10-20%, as compared to a transitional housing model that he said has a 60-70% success rate.
“This is a model that works,” he said. “It’s being recognized in the state as the best practices model.”