North end neighbors start petition, vow to continue protesting homeless services center location

Residents who live near a planned homeless services center in the north end of Palm Springs are vowing to continue putting pressure on elected officials who approved moving forward with the facility last week.

Residents who live near the site of a planned homeless services center in the north end of Palm Springs are vowing to continue putting pressure on elected officials who approved moving forward with the facility last week.

Over the weekend they gathered near the intersection of East San Rafael and North Indian Canyon drives, hoping to raise awareness about their concerns. They also started an online petition directed at decision makers.

At issue is not the homeless services center — approved Jan. 27 as a joint project between the city, Riverside County, and Martha’s Village & Kitchen — but its location in an area of the city already dealing with issues of crime, substance abuse, and violence.

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“Palm Springs has needed (a) Homeless Center for years,” wrote Carlos Amaro, a resident who lives near the project site and started the online petition. “The homeless situation has only become much worse.”

“North Palm Springs has our own problems with substance abuse, mental health and violence,” Amaro continued. “Locating a Homeless Navigation Center within our neighborhood would negatively impact our safety and economic development in the area. The site is immediately adjacent to both single-family and multifamily residential uses and has potential impacts on residents and businesses nearby.”

Despite objections from neighbors, the Palm Springs City Council has twice signaled its approval for the project — voting to pursue purchase of the property in November, and approving multiple agreements that moved the project forward last week.

Those votes have not been unanimous, however. Mayor Pro Tem Grace Garner, who represents neighbors of the project in District 1, was the lone no vote in November, and a no vote on the location portion of the project last week.

In voicing their support, the remaining City Council members, as well as some city department heads, maintain there is no evidence from similar facilities in other communities that the neighbors’ concerns will play out. During a Jan. 27 City Council meeting, some of those department heads pointed to the fact the facility will be designed more like a campus than a shelter, and that Martha’s Village has no history of allowing negative impacts to areas surrounding their facilities.

On Tuesday, Councilmember Geoff Kors reiterated that point during the Main Street Palm Springs meeting.

“We haven’t had the kind of impacts we had over on Encilia,” Kors said, referring to a daytime cooling center formerly located off Calle Encilia and run by Well in the Desert. “Martha’s runs the overnight shelter at Alejo and we haven’t seen negative impacts there.”

Negative secondary impacts or not, Amaro and others maintain placing a facility in the isolated northern part of the city, no matter how well-intentioned, will hinder members of the homeless community.

“Most homeless do not have a car,” said Amaro. “We must place these centers in  close proximity to jobs, hotels, restaurants, businesses — preferably [within] walking distance. The least amount of hurdles we can provide will keep their positive momentum to cement their success back into society.”

The McCarthy Road property is 3.6 acres of industrial land and contains three buildings with 47,000-square-feet of usable space. It is being sold to the city for $5.9 million.

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. Construction should begin in January 2023. It would welcome its first clients in early 2024.

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