As the city’s vison for aiding hundreds of unhoused residents begins to get clearer, additional efforts to provide both outreach and assistance are taking shape. They won’t come without a cost.

On Wednesday morning, a new, coordinated effort to provide outreach to those living in the washes off South Gene Autry Trail and elsewhere began. Later this month, the Palm Springs City Council is expected to be asked to approve $5 million more for a planned navigation center in order to provide dozens of additional beds.

More funding requests for the navigation center — first conceived in 2021 and planned for existing buildings on 3.6 acres in the north end of the city — are nothing new. While city staff wrote in 2021 that the cost to open the facility could be around $12 million, estimates in the latest staff report, made available earlier this month, now put the cost at roughly $40 million.

Local reporting and journalism you can count on.

Subscribe to The Palm Springs Post

That figure represents an increase of $8 million from a staff report in February that put the cost at roughly $32 million and led to the City Council authorizing $3 million more in city funds for the project. The new request for an additional $5 million was on the June 5 agenda, but was pushed out due to time constraints. It could land on the agenda for the council’s next meeting, scheduled for June 29.

Building the navigation center isn’t the only thing planned in the city to address the homeless crisis. In May, elected officials approved allocating up to $1.2 million over the next three years to help deal with hazardous materials left in encampments. In April, new City Manager Scott Stiles proposed building a 95-bed emergency shelter someplace in the city.

When and if the additional $5 million allocation for the navigation center is approved, the city’s portion of the $39.7 million estimated cost would be $8.1 million. Money from state grants and Riverside County will be used for the remainder.

While there is growing concern amongst taxpayers over the new costs estimates, city officials are quick to point out that initial estimates were done well before bids for the work were sought. Once the bids came in it became clear that factors such as a reduced number of bidders, incomplete drawings, infrastructure upgrades, and additional design features would contribute to a notable increase in construction costs.

Palm Springs officials are busy partnering with other governments and agencies to provide a path toward housing the homeless in the city. The steps are outlined in the graphic above.

Still, efforts are underway to combat those rising costs. The development team charged with bringing the navigation center to life was recently able to reduce construction estimates by $10 million by redesigning and repurposing some of the buildings on the property.

Key among those new designs will be an “early entry facility” in a building previously expected to house daytime services and administration offices. As designed, the facility would offer 50 additional beds for temporary housing and serve as a stepping stone between overnight shelters and cooling facilities and full rehabilitative services offered at the main navigation center.

While it could still be eight months from opening, the existence of such a facility would be welcome news for Palm Springs police. Officers who currently conduct outreach on both the streets and washes that run through the city have no nearby place to direct unhoused residents that they are able to convince to seek assistance.

“An officer doesn’t sign up to be a babysitter of adults,” Police Chief Andy Mills said Wednesday morning, speaking about the need for facilities that can offer assistance. “Right now, we cannot put them in a locked facility for them to get the help that they need.”

Sgt. Frank Guarino (left) and Lt. William Hutchinson prepare to address officers and representatives from multiple service agencies that were on hand to kick off a new operation Wednesday morning near the wash off South Gene Autry Trail.

Under the direction of Mills, Lt. William Hutchinson, Sgt. Frank Guarino and other department leaders, it has been police officers who have taken the lead in the city’s efforts at outreach and enforcement in the homeless community. In January, the department launched an effort aimed at combating crime in that community, and on Wednesday it formally kicked off another program, aiming to involve others in the efforts at two of the most troublesome areas of the city.

The initiative, known as R.I.S.E., was first proposed by Guarino and others on the PSPD who often venture deep into homeless encampments on a daily basis, but are limited in assistance they can offer.

Through R.I.S.E. (which uses the words resilience, inclusion, supportive, and ending in its acronym), representatives offering behavioral and medical health services, housing assistance, temporary shelter, and more will descend on the washes off South Gene Autry Trail and Dinah Shore, east of Crossley Road, each Wednesday morning.

“We’re not the solution,” Mills said of police officers prior his staff venturing into the wash off South Gene Autry Trail with others Wednesday morning. “We’re only here because there is no solution.”

While it proved difficult to entice many of the roughly 70 people who live in the wash off South Gene Autry Wednesday morning to accept services, police are familiar with the challenge. By bringing service providers to the unhoused population, however, the barrier of traveling to those service providers — often used as an excuse by residents of encampments for why they won’t seek help — lessens.

Representatives from Operation Safe House negotiate their way through the wash off South Gene Autry Trail Wednesday morning as a new, coordinated effort to address homelessness in the city got underway.

“There’s no excuses with this,” Guarino remarked as a van equipped to provide medical services was parking on the path of the Tahquitz Creek Golf Course adjacent to the wash. “Everything is right here.”

If nothing else, Wednesday’s kickoff was a key moment in the city’s efforts to address the homeless issue due to what was accomplished simply by gathering so many resources in one place.

“There isn’t a coordinated effort,” said Hutchinson. “There are multiple groups working on this issue, but there is no effort to take the next step.

“We need the same database that answers the question, ‘where are you at in the system?’ Sometimes a person has taken step C, but not step A. We need to be able to know that.”


Sign up for news updates.

Receive vital news about our city in your inbox for free every day.

100% local.

The Post was founded by local residents who saw gaps in existing news coverage and believed our community deserved better.

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top