City leaders listen to concerns over homeless center, remain committed to building project in northern Palm Springs
Residents of the northern portion of the city hoping to have their voices heard about a planned homeless services center in their neighborhood got just that at a meeting Tuesday evening that was remarkably different — at least in one respect — than a similar meeting held two weeks ago.
What changed was the format. Instead of city officials speaking at residents and dispatching them to tables staffed with consultants to ask questions, they positioned themselves at the front of the audience gathered at the James O. Jesse Desert Highland Unity Center gymnasium, taking questions and providing what answers they could for 90 minutes.
What didn’t change was the decision to stand up the facility in the neighborhood. The city is committed to moving forward with a planned facility providing temporary housing, counseling, and other supportive services for the homeless at a 3.6-acre industrial site off McCarthy Road, officials said. It recently closed on the property for nearly $6 million.
Like the first meeting, which elected officials and City Manager Justin Clifton acknowledged did not go well, community members expressed frustration that the purchase was rushed through City Hall without first consulting them. The lack of communication was not a surprise, they said, given that their portion of Palm Springs has long been without essential services such as a grocery store and is instead home to a proliferation of undesirable projects such as cannabis grow operations and low-income housing units.
“We’ve met with you several times saying we didn’t want this in our community, but you didn’t listen,” said Evernell Black. “We also told you we don’t want the gas stations and the liquor mart in our community, but you didn’t listen.
“You don’t listen to us. Why should we think you’re going to listen to us tonight? You’ve already made your decision.”
“You’ve done this with a total lack of transparency,” added Bruce Juenger. “It’s negatively impacting a population that has already been negatively impacted. That’s just a disgrace.”
What Juenger and others alluded to was that a two-square-mile area of northern Palm Springs is the city’s poorest area and has remained without a grocery store, medical facilities, a bank, and other services almost since its inception in the 1960s. Roughly 70% of the 6,100 people in the area identify as non-white. Stress brought on from living in poverty and the threat of violence was identified as the most significant health issue in the community.
“Palm Springs really did a bad thing to this neighborhood,” observed David Lester. “It really stinks. …We’re going to exacerbate the problem with this homeless center.”
City officials, including Clifton and Mayor Pro Tem Grace Garner and representatives from Riverside County and Martha’s Village & Kitchen, which will partner with the city to build and run the facility, didn’t speak to the history between City Hall and the neighborhood. In fact, they didn’t speak much, choosing instead to listen as 15 of the roughly 55 community members in attendance took to a podium to address them.
However, they did provide assurances after neighbors voiced concerns that the facility would become a magnet for “professional homeless” uninterested in receiving help and more interested in taking advantage of residents. Many who live in two condominium complexes near the planned facility reported that homeless community members frequently bathe in their community spas, dig through dumpsters on their property, camp on their patios, and steal from their homes.
“These are the cheapest condos in Palm Springs,” said Lisa Hoff, pointing to current issues with housing inequity as the root cause of many of the city’s problems. “If you think that anyone coming out of homelessness can afford to live in Palm Springs, I don’t know what planet you’re living on.”
Clifton said city leaders would continue attempting to address housing inequity in the city. And for now, he vowed to work with the residents to assure their safety would be a priority, and the impact to their neighborhood would be minimized.
More information: The city encourages residents of the impacted neighborhood or anyone else concerned about the navigation center to visit a special web page designed to answer frequent questions. The web page also contains a link to a survey. Questions can be emailed to [email protected]
THE POST IS BROUGHT TO YOU IN PARTNERSHIP WITH:
Gala Elegance & Great Music Support April Piano Competition
Join us this month and next as we work together to support the Waring International Piano Competition. 24 pianists will perform during our 8 day international festival April 10th – April 16th. Most events are free and open to the public. We end the festival with Concerto Finals with the Orchestra at The McCallum April 18th at 6pm. Tap here for tickets.
COMMEMORATING KRAMER: In March 1987, activist, author and playwright Larry Kramer spoke at the New York City Lesbian & Gay Community Center. The meeting led to the founding of ACT-UP (the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power), the largest direct action AIDS organization in the world. This evening in Palm Springs, 35 years after the iconic speech, Rob Wheeler, executive director and CEO of the LGBTQ Center of the Desert, and Mr. Kramer’s authorized biographer, Bill Goldstein, will commemorate that speech during a discussion of Kramer’s life and work at The Mizell Center. Goldstein spent hundreds of hours interviewing Kramer and reviewing his papers, as well as documents form the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP, the two organizations Kramer played a vital role in founding. He has also studied the personal archives of many of Kramer’s closest friends and opponents. His forthcoming biography will be published by Crown. The event begins at 6 p.m. and is free to attend, however it is currently listed as at capacity. The event is co-sponsored by The LBGTQ Center of the Desert. Community partners include The L-Fund, LGBTQ History & Archive of the Desert, KGAY and Gay Desert Guide, and The Palm Springs Post.
? Today’s events
- The Palm Springs Public Library offers story time in Spanish, a book club, crafts, and teen gaming.
- PALS (Planning Ahead for LGBTQ Seniors) offers its online cafe today at 4 p.m.
- Both the Public Arts Commission and the Airport Commission meet at 5:30 p.m.
- The Palm Springs Sunshine Sisters have their monthly birthday bash at 5:30 p.m.
- Martinis and Moxie celebrates Dean Martin and Dinah Shore at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, starting at 6 p.m.
For more events in Palm Springs, check out our complete community calendar. Want your event listed? Just click here to add you event.
?What to watch for
- A Walk of Stars dedication for David C. Lee is planned for Friday at 3 p.m. On Saturday, Lee will join some of the cast of Frasier for an event designed to raise funds to help save the Plaza Theatre. That begins at 1 p.m.
- The Palm Springs Chalk Art Festival runs Saturday and Sunday outside the Palm Springs Art Museum.
- The ONE-PS Annual Neighborhood Picnic is slated for Saturday at Ruth Hardy Park.
- Palm Springs The Musical: Born to Sparkle premieres at Desert Rose Playhouse on March 24. It runs Thursdays through Sundays until April 10.
- The Palm Springs Air Museum annual gala is planned for March 25.
- Desert Ensemble Theatre begins a two-weekend run of All This Intimacy on March 25.
- A benefit for REAF-Palm Springs and the city’s AIDS Memorial Sculpture is planned for March 26 from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at a private home in the city.
- The Negro Academic Scholarship Fund Banquet will be held March 26 at 7 p.m. Information on how to RSVP, purchase tickets, and donate can be found here.
- Palm Canyon Theatre is staging Cyrano de Bergerac from March 31 until April 3.