City Council Explores New Location for Well in the Desert in Wake of Complaints
PALM SPRINGS — Well in the Desert, a drop-in and warming/cooling facility for homeless individuals, could be moving to a new location in the wake of complaints from neighbors about crime and quality of life.
A Palm Springs Police Department analysis identified an increase in the calls for service within the service area around the facility. Some highlights of the analysis include:
• Overall calls for service within the area have increased significantly in 2020 when compared to the statistics from 2019. Part of this increase can be attributed to the fact Police Department staff have initiated more frequent patrols and property
inspections in the area. However, there has been an increase in the number of homeless individuals in the area over the last 12 months, which may in part be attributed to conditions related to the COVID pandemic, as well as the availability of
services such as Project RoomKey in the area around WITD.
• The number of calls for service that may be directly attributable to homeless individuals also increased significantly in 2020, when compared to statistics from previous years. There were 575 calls for service related to homeless individuals in
the period from June 2019 to November 2019; this number increased to 794 calls for service between December 2019 and May 2020, and increased again to 924 calls for service between June 2020 and November 2020.
• The number of arrests related to homeless individuals has generally held steady during the reporting period, except for the period between June 2020 and November 2020, where the number of arrests within the area dropped significantly. The number of arrests for the first half of the new reporting period are tracking slightly less than the number of arrests for 2019 and the first half of 2020.
Calls for service do not directly translate to citations or arrests, and in some cases a reported call for service is self-initiated by the Police Department when doing individual property checks.
Well in the Desert has operated at 441 S. Calle Encilia under a conditional use permit since June 2017. It is the organization’s fourth location. Under the conditions of the permit, the City Council periodically holds public hearings to review the facility. The council voted unanimously in March to continue discussion of the use permit at its April 22 meeting.
Staff has identified four potential city-owned sites for consideration of a potential location of WITD operations. They are:
- 225 S. El Cielo – Boxing Club
- 3111 E. Tahquitz Canyon Drive – CVEP Building
- N. Gene Autry Trail Site
- E. Ramon Road Site
Staff also evaluated three privately owned properties as follows:
- 211 N. Sunrise Way
- 296 S. Indian Canyon Drive
- 3589 McCarthy Road
In evaluating these potential sites, staff says that the most expedient potential is to relocate Well in the Desert to the “Boxing Club” site as it is controlled by the city in a building currently used to support homeless services and as a previous temporary shelter. It is in a zoning district that allows for this type of use.
Well in the Desert, a nonprofit, provides space for counseling and employment services, case worker services, and general administrative functions. Individuals who are reluctant to accept emergency shelter or transitional housing can visit drop-in facilities, such as Well in the Desert, to find a temporary safe haven.
With the closure of Roy’s in 2017 (the County’s Homeless Shelter serving the western Coachella Valley), and the more recent effects of COVID, Palm Springs has experienced a significant increase in homelessness and initiated several these efforts to address this problem. City initiatives include:
- implementing Crisis Teams to perform outreach and provide homeless individuals with resources;
- offering wrap-around services to assist individuals with securing identification to obtain benefits
- providing Cool/Warm Centers during times of inclement weather;
- offering food distributions and transportation vouchers;
- and coordinating with the County to provide emergency, temporary, and permanent housing.
- Well in the Desert: Facebook