LOCAL GOV: City adds one year to homeless respite center pilot program

BlueDevilHUB.com Editor-in-Chief–

The Davis city council moved to approve a second pilot year for the Davis homeless respite center program. The decision came after a detailed report of first-year successes and challenges, and a large number of supportive public commenters.

The respite program launched on Feb. 24, 2020 just before the beginning of the pandemic.  “It was the first time Davis has had a program like that, where they provide wraparound services to homeless individuals,” said Dagoberto Fierros, City Management Analyst.

The center, located on 1717 5th St., provides restrooms, showers, supplies, food, laundry and other basic needs to unhoused individuals. It also provides healthcare.

Sara Gavin, Chief Behavioral Health Officer, is a Communicare employee, the health service that partnered with the City of Davis. “We provide full time mental health commission that is on site,” Gavin said.

During the pandemic, Communicare also “folded in nursing care,” along with screening and testing. “I think there’s been tremendous success in building relationships and trust,” Gavin said. “[They have] access to people that care about them, that care about their wellbeing.”

The site offers long-term resources as well. Project Roomkey, for example, provides homeless individuals with hotel and motel rooms. “All the services tie in together one way or another,” Fierros said. “Since the program opened, [there is] at least one new program participant each week.”

During its first pilot year, center staff communicated with the surrounding neighborhood, Davis Manor. Sophia Nachmanoff, Davis High and Da Vinci High alumna, used to live one backyard fence away from the center. She was the program’s first Davis Manor liaison.

“There were a lot of neighbors that were very concerned about the respite center, and also the equity of it,” Nachmanoff said. According to Nachmanoff, the concerns regarded lowered property value in a low income neighborhood, and safety. Some concerns also stemmed from xenophobia.

To gain support from Manor residents, the center held community meetings and distributed surveys by mail. Fierros says, out of 130 survey respondents, which is approximately 12 to 13 percent of the neighborhood population, 51 percent saw some negative impact to the neighborhood and 49 percent saw no negative impact.

“For the most part, the people understood the importance of providing the services I mentioned before to the vulnerable people of Davis,” Fierros said. 

Gavin looks forward to the newly approved, second pilot year. “The hope is that we can continue to build on the work we’re doing now,” she said. 

For Nachmanoff, the respite center is only a starting point. “My hope is […] proving that a permanent shelter can exist and not cause risk to the surrounding neighborhood,” she said. “It’s not the final step, it’s like a trial.”

During the city council meeting, Mayor Gloria Partida shared her stance: “It’s great to hear all of the good that has been able to go forward.”

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