City promising time to hear community concerns as it moves forward with next homeless center meeting

Acknowledging the first meeting with neighbors in the northern part of the city didn’t go as well as they expected, city leaders on Tuesday promised a scheduled second meeting about a planned homeless services center would include an opportunity for open discussion.

The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday March 15 at 6 p.m. in the gymnasium of the James O. Jesse Desert Highland Unity Center. During the meeting, an individual public comment period will be provided, as well as an opportunity for residents to express interest in joining a new Resident Advisory Working Group being formed to help develop recommendations.

A similar meeting March 3 left residents of Desert Highland Gateway Estates frustrated when they were instructed to ask questions to consultants staffing tables set up in the gymnasium instead of directly to Palm Springs and Riverside County officials.

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“We really want to create a forum in which everybody feels they are being heard,” Mayor Pro Tem Grace Garner said during a meeting of the Desert Highland Gateway Estates Community Action Association Tuesday evening. “We don’t want it to be something people leave feeling upset about, which is I think what happened last time.”

The project, known as a “Homeless Navigation Center,” is being developed by the city and county in partnership. It is currently in the planning stages after the city purchased a 3.6-acre industrial site off McCarthy Road containing three buildings with 47,000-square-feet of usable space.

When opened, the facility will have 80 units of transitional housing, as well as job training, medical care, and other services. Clients would be committed to remaining at the facility as they move to permanent housing and employment. 

Residents of nearby homes and apartments do not object to the partnership and agree more needs to be done to aid unhoused city residents. What they object to is the fact the project was pushed forward at City Hall without first meeting with them.

“We should have been notified,” said Shawnda Faveau, a Desert Highlands Gateway Estates resident and member of the city’s Public Arts Commission during the initial meeting on March 3 . “These meetings should have happened months ago.”

Garner acknowledged that Tuesday evening, but said the city was moving forward with the McCarthy Road location. She asked that community members try to work with the city to assure any concerns they have are addressed.

“The city by law is allowed to build a center like this wherever they want,” she said. “That’s what makes it difficult.”

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