Unannounced and unexpected homeless dump in Palm Springs has disturbed members of the City Council
PALM SPRINGS — A homeless dump of 25 to 30 people, many of whom have been arrested for crimes and have tested positive for COVID-19, contributes to spike in homelessness in this community, according to Police Chief Bryan Reyes.
The chief broke the news to the outraged City Council last week during a regular City Council meeting.
“It’s a little disturbing, the information I’m about to share with you,” Reyes said. “We’ve seen a rise in homelessness in our community.”
Reyes said the Police Department has devoted resources to specifically work full time in making contact and developing relationships with the homeless population in an effort to get them some needed help. During those contacts, Reyes said his staff often asks the homeless what brought them to Palm Springs, or if they’re local homeless within the city of Palm Springs.
“Unfortunately, recently we’ve learned that we’re seeing a fair share in our city from the west end of the county, and some being released from the county jail into our city’s specific hotels,” Reyes explained. “We’ve learned that there is a program by the Department of Infectious Diseases that is running in our city in which they have transported 25 to 30 subjects from throughout the county to be housed in our hotel for six to 10 days. We’ve made attempts to contact the program manager to get some answers, to understand what this program is all about (and) if there are any checks and balances in regards to the release of these subjects into our city.”
Reyes said he has learned that all of those involved in the homeless dump are in Palm Springs for the purpose of being quarantined for COVID-related matters. It’s disturbing, he said, to learn that of those 30, at least four to five were arrestees from the city of Riverside, Corona, Jurupa Valley, that served their sentence in county jail in Banning. They were transported into Palm Springs to be housed in the city’s hotels for seven to 10 days and then released in the community.
We do not understand what level of checks and balances there are upon arrival and during their stay, Reyes said. Clearly there doesn’t appear to be any checks and balances after they are released because our staff has been in contact with them, he said.
“It’s unfortunate that we find ourselves working backwards by contacting the hotels (and) contacting our staff that’s interviewing these people,” Reyes said. “I think the time is now more than ever for an important meeting with maybe the … Supervisor responsible for our area.”
The county sheriff’s department is simply following the direction of the Department of Infectious Diseases as it relates to transporting homeless to a specific hotel within our city, Reyes said. It is our understanding that there’s only two hotels that have been selected for the entire county — one in the city of Palm Springs and the other one in the western area of the county, in the city of Riverside.
After Reyes finished, Councilmember Geoff Kors said, “Obviously this is incredibly disturbing given how much we’ve done. … For this to happen with no notification to us from the county is really outrageous in my view. I appreciate your letting us know, chief, that you’re learning this from the individuals and not from the county, from the sheriff or the public health department is really troubling. And no resources to help us in this, but not even notice.”
Kors encouraged Reyes to meet with Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez and include the Council’s homeless liaisons, Mayor Christy Holstege and Grace Garner. Kors asked Reyes to report back to the Council at its next meeting so it can decide what actions, if any, it needs to take.
“This cannot continue like this and it’s really unacceptable to our city, our residents, our businesses that this is happening with no notice or warning,” Kors said. “It really feels unfair.”
Greg Rodriguez, government relations and public policy adviser for Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, said that since 2004, Public Health has had agreements with motels to temporarily house patients with infectious diseases who cannot safely isolate either at home or away from others. Throughout the pandemic, this program has been adapted to help patients with respiratory illness experiencing homelessness so that they have a safe place to isolate.
“These individuals are most often discharged from the hospital,” Rodriguez told Uken Report. “Efforts are also made to place patients in areas closest to where they live. So far in 2021, eight individuals in this program were from the Coachella Valley, another four did not list a city of residence, and one from out of the region.”
While in the motel, Public Health monitors the individuals and precautions are taken to protect hotel staff and other guests, Rodriguez said. Meals are provided by the county.
Once individuals are no longer infectious to others, efforts are made to connect them with other county programs to provide emergency shelter or permanent housing, and wraparound services, Rodriguez said.
Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton echoed Kors’ comments.
“This is absolutely unacceptable,” Middleton said. “There’s no city in the Coachella Valley that has done more than the city of Palm Springs to work with the county on issues of homelessness. There’s no city council that has worked more strenuously than we have. And we’ve taken every opportunity to try to be helpful and cooperative and to have a program like this begin in our city, without any notice to us, to the mayor, to councilmember Garner, who worked closely on these issues. to our city manager, to our police chief. The kind of cooperation that we have had in the past is at risk.”
That cooperation is more important now than it ever has been before, Middleton said, adding that there is a “very, very large number of extremely angry residents and merchants.”
“And we’ve now learned they have reason to be angry,” Middleton said. “This is a program that we will have to make every effort to reform and correct. This can’t happen again.”
Mayor Holstege asked several questions but did comment. She could not be reached Monday for comment.
Some of her most ardent supporters said the housing dump was Sheriff Chad Bianco’s way to retaliate against Holstege after their verbal exchange on social media and TV. In January, the mayor accused the sheriff of downplaying the seriousness of COVID-19 after he and his family had contracted the virus.
“Frankly, I couldn’t care less about Mayor Holstege, and I have no animosity toward her,” Bianco told Uken Report. “I only care when she disseminates false information to further her political agenda. I also don’t believe in revenge, and certainly wouldn’t do anything immoral or unethical. The homeless housed in the Palm Springs hotel are from a county program dedicating resources toward something I do not support.”
Bianco said he is on the same side of this argument as Chief Reyes and the men and women of the Palm Springs Police Department.
“I would never do anything contrary to public safety which could harm Palm Springs businesses or residents,” Bianco said. “I do find it slightly ironic that the most liberal city council in the county is complaining about a liberal county policy to provide free housing to criminals and homeless.”
- Bryan Reyes: Palm Springs Police Department
- Geoff Kors: Geoff Kors
- 450x550_lisa-middleton: Lisa Middleton
- Homeless: Shutterstock