Last week, the Davis City Council voted to waive the overnight persons number cap on cold weather shelter facilities. The city set a capacity of the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter at 25 individuals, although it was increased to 30 during the extreme cold weather period.
Davis has three shelters of this kind. During cold temperatures in December, the shelters were crowded and two people were turned away from the IRWS. In such cold weather, shelters must be able to find a way to accommodate two more individuals.
The facilities should focus on health and safety, instead of the number of people in each shelter. Sheltering the homeless is more important than tacking on an occupancy limit.
Part of the problem comes from how the shelters did not have a clear procedure to follow during situations of high volume. The city staff has since taken steps to provide a clear procedure to take in case of overcrowding. Even though this occurred after the capacity issues during the cold weather, this is an especially positive change, considering the upcoming heavy rain and windy weather in the next two weeks.
The council’s decision to waive the capacity limit was an example of community residents coming together to express their feelings and communicate their needs effectively to officials. The city originally planned to continue to monitor shelter usage and return with an updated report. Community residents proactively took action. They attended the meeting and voiced their needs, ultimately persuading the council to waive the limits.
Certain costs will have to be taken from the General Fund, since the cold weather was not a declared emergency. An additional $861.49 went to opening a daytime warming shelter, helping the IRWS with capacity increases and distributing bus vouchers.
A total of $66,029 has been allocated to local shelter services this year, including the Wayfarer Center. The countywide shelter in Woodland has capacity of 50 individuals. Furthermore, this location is a clean and sober shelter, unlike the IRWS and Davis Community Meals, which do not require guests to be clean and sober.
There has been much tension and opposing viewpoints concerning the attitude toward Davis’ homeless population. The city should continue to discuss the policies regarding the shelters and work closely with the volunteers and community residents.