Overnight shelter now offered in city, but some fear it will contribute to homeless issue at airport

The newly-opened shelter will operate out of a building off El Cielo Road. Some worry it’s too close to the airport, which has seen an influx in unhoused residents residing on the property.
Clients of the city’s access center off El Cielo Road watch a movie Monday afternoon. The facility was scheduled to begin offering overnight accommodations later.

With cloudy and rainy weather and overnight lows reaching into the low 40s, the city has opened an overnight shelter for unhoused residents.

Driving the news: The 15-bed shelter opened Monday afternoon at the site of the city’s former Boxing Club and will remain open through Feb. 28. The city is working in partnership with Martha’s Village and Kitchen to operate the overnight accommodations.

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Details: The newly-opened shelter will operate out of the Palm Springs Access Center at 225 El Cielo Road from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. Beds are available on a first-come, first-served basis. 

  • The shelter will also provide free dinner, breakfast, and hygiene items.

Yes, but: The need for overnight shelter is particularly urgent in Palm Springs. Hundreds of unhoused residents are believed to be living on the streets of the city. Members of local homeless advocacy groups noted Monday the 15 beds are helpful, but the location might not be.

  • “We objected to the daytime Access Center at this new location from the start, given its proximity to the airport, which now has reportedly experienced some homeless people staying overnight,” wrote David Murphy of Palm Springs Community Partnership on Homelessness.

Employees we spoke with at the airport Monday afternoon said they had not seen any evidence recently that unhoused city residents had been staying there overnight, but others reported via email that was not the case. Palm Springs police said the issue was a recent development, but that the airport is public property and they cannot forcibly remove unhoused residents who enter the property.

  • “My team starts at 4 a.m. daily and there are absolutely homeless individuals sleeping there overnight – either at the far end of baggage claim or across from the restrooms in the main terminal,” wrote one airport employee. “There are generally anywhere from five to 20 people there daily, and the situation has gotten progressively worse over the past three to four months.”

Of note: The shelter and meals being arranged by the city are separate from ongoing efforts offered year-round by Well in the Desert, a Palm Springs-based nonprofit that distributes thousands of hot meals, as well as food, to those in need each year.

  • For more information about the meal and food services offered by The Well, go here.

While feeding and sheltering those on the city’s streets is of immediate concern, Riverside County needs volunteers to participate in an annual effort that has a long-term impact. 

Why it matters: The Point In Time Count, scheduled for later this month, is a snapshot of what the homeless population looks like in the county and is required for the county to advocate for more funding and services.

  • The results of last year’s count showed the number of people found living on the streets increased by about 15%. 

Details: The count will happen on Wednesday, Jan. 25, starting at 5:30 a.m. at the Palm Springs Convention Center. Training is required to be a volunteer. All who step up must have a phone, be 18 or older, and be able to walk for up to two hours. 

  • For more information or to register, go here.

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