Riverside County may put up $7 million for homeless navigation center in Palm Springs

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A warehouse space at 3589 McCarthy Rd. is seen on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in Palm Springs, Calif.
A warehouse space at 3589 McCarthy Rd. is seen on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in Palm Springs, Calif.

Riverside County will put up $5.9 million to buy a property in Palm Springs for use as a homeless navigation center and contribute $1.1 million to renovating it under a deal discussed Thursday at the Palm Springs City Council meeting.

City Manager Justin Clifton said the city estimates it will cost $12 million to $13 million to purchase the property and outfit the center at 3589 McCarthy Road.

The city, meanwhile, would contribute $5.3 million in funds from a $10 million state grant to address homelessness that it received in June 2020. Those funds would go toward construction costs and operations for the next nine years.

Palm Springs City Manager Justin Clifton.
Palm Springs City Manager Justin Clifton.

At the same time, the city and county are hoping to get as much as $25 million from the state to help fund the navigation center on the north side of Palm Springs.

On Thursday, the city council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Palm Springs to enter into a joint application with the county to apply for up to $50 million from the state's Homekey program, which is geared toward creating housing for homeless people.

According to a memo to the city council from Clifton, the city is requesting $50 million because the application for Homekey funds recommends "doubling the anticipated grant amount." The city notes that any grant may be less than $50 million. The application is due Jan. 31.

"The award, should we get it — and we're crossing our fingers — [will be for] maybe even half of that, so 12 and a half million or so, to go towards the buildout," said Director of Community and Economic Development Jay Virata.

City is already in escrow on the property

In November, the council voted 4-1 to authorize the purchase of the 3.6-acre site and three buildings at 3589 McCarthy Road for $5.9 million. The property is north of San Rafael Road Drive and west of North Indian Canyon Drive.

Clifton has repeatedly said a navigation center would provide a resource that is sorely lacking when it comes to addressing homelessness in the city: a comprehensive facility where shelter, food, and a full suite of support services can be located together.

A vision for the facility outlined in city memos calls for it to include transitional housing units with bathroom facilities along with shared kitchen facilities, gathering spaces and recreational spaces.

Other facilities within the center would include a health clinic with private rooms and supporting offices; a commercial kitchen to prepare meals for residents; a laundry and washing area; and space for service providers, including offices, reception areas, multi-use rooms, storage areas and other to-be-determined facilities to support the providers.

The city is currently in escrow to purchase the property, Virata said Thursday.

Virata said the escrow is scheduled to remain open until Jan. 28, although the city is currently pursuing an extension.

George Smith tries to stay cool during triple-digit temperatures in the shade of a wall at Sunrise Park after the closure of the overnight shelter for the homeless in Palm Springs, September 30, 2020.
George Smith tries to stay cool during triple-digit temperatures in the shade of a wall at Sunrise Park after the closure of the overnight shelter for the homeless in Palm Springs, September 30, 2020.

"We are pursuing an extension; however, we do not know if the seller will be amenable to any more extensions," Virata said.

Virata said he anticipates that the city will bring forward an agreement with the county to provide its portion of the funding at the Jan. 27 meeting for council approval. That would allow the city to have the financing for the purchase in place before the current escrow period runs out. Clifton said last week that the city was still ironing out the details of that agreement with the county. He did not specify during the meeting if the county had approved the agreement.

According to a state memo, the state made $1.45 billion in Homekey funding available to applicants on a rolling basis starting in September. Of that total amount, about $1.2 billion comes from the federal American Rescue Plan while the other $250 million is from the state general fund.

Clifton said that while the Homekey grant would help the city operate the center for many years to come, the city will have enough money once it finalizes the deal with the county to proceed with closing the deal and outfitting the center regardless.

"I just want to be clear that if we don't get this grant, we're not going to be sitting with an empty building," said Councilmember Geoff Kors.

Isaac Hernandez, 27, who is experiencing homelessness offers a friend's dog some food near Baristo Park in Palm Springs on October 26, 2021.
Isaac Hernandez, 27, who is experiencing homelessness offers a friend's dog some food near Baristo Park in Palm Springs on October 26, 2021.

Clifton responded that the city "has backup plans and other opportunities we would try to take advantage of."

The city is also finalizing plans for a community outreach process to solicit ideas and suggestions for navigation center services and operations. That process will involve community meetings, surveys, staff research and outreach to stakeholders.

Last month, the city released a request for letters of interest from potential service providers interested in operating the center and overseeing its services. Those letters of interest are due on Friday.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: County may put up $7M for homeless center in Palm Springs

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