North Palm Springs residents on homeless services center: Right idea, wrong place

Palm Springs residents who live in a section of the city that could see a campus for homeless services built said Monday evening the facility is the right idea but would be the wrong location if built near their neighborhoods.

“This would be very close to a community already struggling with drugs and with crime,” said Raghda Zacharia, who lives in a condominium complex near the site in question. “Every time we have a project, you dump it on the low-income part of Palm Springs.”

In a report set to be discussed by the Palm Springs City Council Thursday, city staff ranked 3589 McCarthy Rd. as their first choice among seven for a “navigation center.” The property sits on 3.6 acres of industrial land in the north part of the city and contains three buildings. It is currently in escrow for $5.9 million, but the potential buyer 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.

Speaking during a District 1 listening session hosted by Councilmember Grace Garner, residents who live in the Miralon development, Desert Highlands Gateway Estates, and Palm Springs Villas said they support the city building a facility to serve those experiencing homelessness. Still, many said their part of the city is too often asked to absorb unwanted projects — including cannabis growing facilities — and rarely eyed for beneficial development such as supermarkets, banks, and medical offices.

“We understand there’s a big need for it all over the country,” said Deiter Crawford of the navigation center. “But we feel this area has its own problems with substance abuse and violence. We are a dumping ground. It’s not fair to our community. It’s red-lining and de facto racism to put the homeless services facility out here.”

Garner is a Palm Springs native who is often the lone no vote on Council decisions that negatively affect her constituents. She told three dozen attendees of the Monday evening Zoom session she has received no feedback supporting construction of the facility along McCarthy Road.

While she has not formulated a final opinion about which of the seven proposed locations she prefers, Garner said she has no doubt now about how voters in her district feel. She also acknowledged the city has so far done little to promote positive projects in northern Palm Springs.

“We’ve done a lot to focus on bringing development to other parts of town and not as much to bring services to the north end of town,” she said.

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