The topic of homelessness is a big one but experts always hit a roadblock when addressing the issue: money.
The state of California is expected to allot $10 million from the state budget to combat homelessness in Palm Springs.
How will that money be used and is it enough to make a difference? Palm Springs City Council thinks so.
Council member J.R. Roberts said the $10 million request is one that has been years in the making. He sat with Assemblyman Chad Mayes two years ago to see if he would back legislation to fight homelessness.
Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Geoff Kors and council member Christy Holstege, who help lead the city’s homeless subcommittee, worked with Assemblymember Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) to secure the funding. The subcommittee met with Governor and legislators, including State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, in Sacramento to support Mayes’ efforts.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it into the state budget.
“This money will allow us to do temporary and transitional housing,” Roberts said. “It will allow us to forward our programs, to help with other things like treatment plans, but mostly just getting people off the street.”
The west valley does not have a 24/7 location for people to go to even during the hottest months. They only have Well in the Desert and a few cooling centers. The Coachella Valley Rescue Mission in Indio is 24/7 for the east valley but their director, Darla Burkett, said they are full almost daily.
“We can devise all the programs we want to work with and help the homeless but much of it goes unfunded because we simply don’t have the money for it,” Roberts said.
With the new funding, money will no longer be an issue.
“This ten million dollars will allow us to perhaps buy an old hotel or apartment building to convert it for emergency housing or transitional housing,” Roberts said. “This allows us to go to the next step of actually getting people off the street.”
The housing or new facility would also be a place for the Palm Springs Police Department to give as an option for the homeless people they encounter.
“We have all the pieces in place now with the exception of a facility,” PSPD Chief Bryan Reyes, said.
PSPD has 3 police officers, two community service officers and mental health employees who all work relationally with homeless people rather than using strict enforcement.
From past experience, Chief Reyes said relationships work better than force. Some people are open to help right away but others might require 50 to 100 encounters with an officer.
Chief Reyes said a facility with services like drug rehab, mental health treatment and housing help is the final piece of the puzzle.
“Once they see some of their fellow homeless people going through this facility, getting the help they need, that’ll just reinforce and say, you know what, not only is there hope but it’s working and we’re seeing the end result,” Chief Reyes said.
“We can move fast now,” Roberts said.
When asked about a possible location for the facility, the city said they have scoped out land and existing buildings but are waiting to make any decisions.
The appropriation is expected to reach the governor’s desk by the end of next week.