City staff recommending north Palm Springs property as top spot for homeless services facility

Three buildings on 3.6 acres in north Palm Springs could become a homeless services center, if a recommendation by city staff moves forward.

An opportunity to purchase a property that already has nearly 47,000-square-feet of usable space may be the fastest route to establishing a campus for transitional housing and services for those experiencing homelessness in Palm Springs.

In a report set to be discussed by the Palm Springs City Council next Thursday, city staff recommend 3589 McCarthy Rd. as their first choice for a “navigation center.” The property sits on 3.6 acres of industrial land and contains three buildings. It is currently in escrow for $5.9 million, but the potential buyer, Fred Noble, president and CEO of Wintec Energy, has offered to allow the city to assume the purchase.

Navigation centers have proven effective in other communities struggling to solve the problem of homelessness. Typically they have limited barriers to entry and offer temporary room and board with direct access to case managers who work to connect homeless individuals and families to income, public benefits, health services, permanent housing, and other shelters.

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City staff members had reviewed potential navigation center locations for months and identified other possible sites before Noble’s offer. Some of the properties they examined were only vacant land and would have required years to build out. Others did not offer as much existing usable space as the McCarthy Road location.

“There are structures on the property that could be retrofitted much more quickly and more cost effectively than other properties identified by staff for this use,” the report states. “Noble is willing to assign the purchase agreement to the city at no additional cost except the current purchase price.”

If selected, city staff estimate the total cost of building the navigation center at the site would be $12.1 million after renovations. Funding for the project would come from both the city and Riverside County. The report states the county could commit to using as much as $7 million of the nearly $480 million it receives from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for the project.

News of the opportunity along McCarthy Road was welcomed Thursday afternoon by members of a community group formed this year to address the homeless crisis in Palm Springs proactively. While months of work remain before a navigation center can open anywhere in the city, they said the possibility of committing to a site with so much existing useable square footage was “really good news.”

“We’re excited to see the progress that’s been made around the location,” said David Toner, a member of Community Partnership on Homelessness (CPOH). “We really want to make sure the Council is thinking about all of these services.”

Added David Murphy, another member of CPOH: “It’s going to be about money and timing, to make sure this navigation campus is as comprehensive as it can be. It needs to have a breadth of services – flexible housing, and access to treatment either on the campus or the ability to be triaged into another facility.”

Those details are sure to be a topic of future consideration once any facility is underway. For now, the city is focused on securing a site.

“One of the more persistent challenges in addressing homelessness in Palm Springs has been the lack of a comprehensive facility such as a navigation center where shelter, food, and the full suite of support services can be co-located,” staff wrote in the report. “Building a navigation center provides a unique opportunity to greatly expand on recent progress.”

Even if a navigation center goes into service, it will not likely bring an immediate end to homelessness issues in the city. Instead, it would complement other services here, such those offered by nonprofit organizations Well in the Desert and Martha’s Village and Kitchen.

“A well-managed navigation center would greatly expand our ability to serve our unhoused population and reduce secondary impacts the can negatively impact the quality of life,” the report concludes.

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