DAILY BRIEFING: Third homeless center meeting, self-storage progress, and more

Good morning. It’s Thursday, April 28. Expect sunshine and some wind today with a high near 86 degrees. First, some news you need to know …

Third community meeting on homeless services center sees sparse attendance, more frustration

By Kendall Balchan

The soon-to-be neighbors of a planned homeless services center in the north end of Palm Springs had a third chance to speak directly to the people involved in the decision-making Wednesday evening. Similar to previous meetings, the meeting format and community frustrations were top of mind.

The meeting was designed to mitigate concerns over placement of the homeless navigation center on a 3.6-acre industrial site off McCarthy Road in North Palm Springs. It was the third different format and marked the first meeting offered on Zoom. Public speakers who tuned in said the city did not adequately communicate the date and time of the meeting. At least two said they had only logged on a few minutes after hearing about it on the local evening news. 

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“You’ve got a problem as far as public involvement,” Rev. Shelley Somerville told organizers. “I wonder if this is more evidence for why there are not more people at these meetings — most people don’t know one is happening.”

So few people spoke in the meeting that the seven public speakers were outnumbered by the consultants and officials from the city, Riverside County, Palm Springs Police Department, and Martha’s Village and Kitchen, which will operate the facility.

Some residents who spoke also seemed confused by the meeting format after they asked questions that the officials did not answer. 

A consultant clarified, “All of tonight’s questions will be posted on the city’s homeless navigation center web page. They will be answered as soon as possible, probably by the end of next week.”

Despite the sparse attendance, the residents who did speak echoed what other public commenters have said in previous meetings, held in early and mid-March. They expressed frustration and exasperation with feeling locked out of the decision-making process for the center that is set to open sometime in the middle of next year. 

After asking several questions in rapid succession about where the homeless people are coming from, whether sexual predators will be vetted, and whether the city will employ community members to staff the facility, Gloria Thompson said point-blank, “I’m asking questions, but I’m not getting any answers on this homeless shelter that’s going to be run across the street from where I grew up and where I still have nieces and nephews.” 

Linda Barrack, President and CEO of Martha’s Village and Kitchen, responded to some of Thompson’s questions, stating that the homeless people at the center are thoroughly vetted. Barrack also added that her organization is looking forward to hiring community members. Anyone interested should check the organization’s website after May 2 for information on the open positions and hiring process. 

“It is my hope that we will find people from the community that choose to select employment in the fields of service to those in need,” Barrack said. “Full training will be given to work with the homeless and those that need the services. It takes a good heart and a good mind and sometimes a strong back to do this work.”

City manager Justin Clifton appeared to sense the frustration from the commenters. He spoke frankly for about eight minutes, breaking the more formal demeanor of some of the officials in previous meetings. 

He noted how impossible it is to make a decision that’s good for the city and also supported by everyone and that it’s easy to listen to criticism but harder to implement change. 

“I understand the stakes, and I do not get a bonus for screwing up our residents’ lives,” he said. “This could be my ticket out of here. I could get the boot if this really blows up and Council ends up feeling like, you know, I helped lead them down a bad road.”

He affirmed his commitment to continue meeting with residents before, during, and after the center’s opening. 

“To do it the right way is to continue these conversations not just now and until construction starts, not just when construction finishes, but through the early days of our operation. So that this is not simply ‘mission accomplished,’ we walk away.”

? Briefly

A rendering of a planned self storage facility off Farrell Drive.

MORE SELF STORAGE: Additional relief for those looking for self-storage in the city moved forward at City Hall Wednesday evening. By a unanimous vote, with conditions for additional view-blocking measure, the Palm Springs Planning Commission approved construction of a 65,000-square-foot facility for an undeveloped lot at 900 North Farrell Dr. The developer plans to build four buildings on 4.2 acres with hundreds of storage units and space for 30 RVs or boats. The project is one of four self-storage facilities in the planning or permitting stages here. That’s good news for those trying to find options to store their stuff: Storage units in the desert are hard to come by, and when they are found they cost twice as much per square foot as the national average. 

DINE OUT FOR LIFE TODAY: Dozens of Palm Springs businesses are participating in the annual “Dining Out For Life” event today. The concept is simple: Restaurants, bars, and coffee shops donate a percent of their sales to DAP Health, and the organization works to fill participating locations with community members who want to support the mission of ending HIV. In 2019, the last time the event was held in full-scale, more than 80 businesses — including bars, bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants, raised $307,000. To see a list of participating establishments, turn here.

POLICE SEEK INFO ON TUESDAY SHOOTING: Palm Springs Police are looking for anyone with information about a shooting that happened just after 11 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26 on East San Rafael Drive between Avenida Caballeros and Sunrise Way. Officers arrived and found a female victim whose car had been shot at while she was driving. She said she saw the gunshots coming from a white vehicle on E. San Rafael Drive. The victim was not injured. Anyone with information is urged to call Detective Escallada at 760-323-8129. Anonymous information can be provided to Crime Stoppers at 760-341-7867.

? Pet of the week

MEET ELI: Each week, The Post partners with Animal Samaritans to feature one of the many animal companions ready for a new home at the shelter. This week we invite you to meet Eli, an 11-week-old male kitten who volunteers say is naturally playful. If anyone is interested in Eli, they can visit the no-kill shelter, located at 72307 Ramon Rd. in Thousand Palms, for a meet-and-greet and fill out an adoption application. Shelter hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. and then 1 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.

? Today’s events

  • The Palm Springs Small Hotel TBID Advisory Board convenes this afternoon at 4 p.m. online for a special meeting.
  • The Sonora Sunrise Neighborhood holds its annual meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the Palm Springs Pavilion.
  • The Parks and Recreation Commission’s regular meeting that was postponed is being held tonight at 5:30 p.m. online.
  • VillageFest is happening downtown, starting at 6 p.m. Also, there’s free admission at the Palm Springs Art Museum.
  • Palm Canyon Theatre’s production of Monty Python’s Sir Spamalot continues this evening at 7 p.m.
  • The Desert Rose Playhouse presents Mid-Century Moderns, a new musical tonight at 7 p.m.
See our complete community calendar or get your event listed by clicking here.

? What to watch for

  • Italian Tenor Pasquale Esposito performs Il Tempo on Saturday at CVRep, starting at 7:30 p.m.
  • Desert Winds Freedom Band has its next performance on Sunday.
  • The Sing Out for Ukraine Benefit Concert is May 2 at 6 p.m. at The Purple Room in Palm Springs.
  • The Annual State of the City is coming up on May 3 at 5 p.m. at the historic Plaza Theatre.
  • The next free concert in the new Downtown Park, put on by The Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce, is slated for May 4 at 7 p.m.
  • The Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast is scheduled for May 11 at 8:30 a.m.
  • The Palm Springs International Jazz Festival is scheduled for the weekend of May 14 and 15 at the historic Plaza Theatre in Downtown Palm Springs.

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