Police: Signs of progress follow cooling center closing, but issues involving homeless far from solved

Fewer issues in South Palm Springs brought on by individuals experiencing homelessness are being reported, police said Tuesday, now that Well in the Desert has closed the doors of a cooling center on Calle Encilia.

“The owner has taken over the property, and they have hired security and enforced trespassing,” Palm Springs Police Department Capt. Mike Kovaleff told local business owners during a monthly meeting of the Main Street business association. While police have been called to the Calle Encilia site six times in the past week to deal with trespassers, Kovaleff said, “I’m seeing improvement right now at Baristo Park and a lot of areas in that end of town.”

In June, Well in the Desert, which provided daytime drop-in services for those experiencing homelessness at the cooling center, was denied a new permit after years of frustration expressed by nearby residents. Well in the Desert’s president, Arlene Rosenthal, refused to close the drop-in facility, choosing to instead accumulate fines. The Well continues to provide meals and other services at other locations.

In late August, Martha’s Village and Kitchen began offering the same services and more for those experiencing homelessness at the city’s former Boxing Club site located at 225 S. El Cielo Rd. That site, Kovaleff said, has seen few issues, if any.

“If you drive by there, you will not even know it’s operational,” he said of the El Cielo Road operation. “The clients are remaining inside, and they are shuttled to that location from locations throughout the city.”

Kovaleff’s department responded to nearly 50 calls regarding issues with the homeless community last month, including the arrest of one woman suspected of intentionally setting fires. He cautioned that while Well in the Desert has closed the Baristo Park area location, members of the homeless community have just dispersed to other parts of the city,

“We haven’t solved our homeless issue,” he said. “We just don’t know where they are all at.”

Downtown business owners said many people experiencing homelessness remain at their doorsteps, where they are found sleeping in front of their shops and often seen using drugs.

“When somebody is shooting up or sleeping on your back door, what are we supposed to do about it?” asked Joy Brown Meredith, owner of Crystal Fantasy on North Palm Canyon Drive. “We need to feel that we are safe. Some days it’s just plain old scary to walk from a parking lot to a building.”

Kovaleff said if anyone is seen committing a possible crime, whether they are a member of the homeless community or not, police need to be notified.

“Please call us,” he advised. “It’s as simple as that. If you have somebody shooting up heroin at your business, that’s a crime. It’s unacceptable behavior.”


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