City will lease empty apartments to members of homeless population during upcoming winter

City will lease empty apartments to members of homeless population during upcoming winter

Photo Credits: AGGIE FILE

Creative solution will shelter residents from cold, decrease spread of COVID-19

On Sept. 22, the Davis City Council voted to lease 25 apartments for six months—from October until March—to 40 members of the homeless community. This program is primarily for those with an underlying health condition or people over 65 years, according to an article from the Davis Enterprise

The city of Davis has 190 unhoused people as of the latest Point-in-Time count in 2019, according to a staff report for the meeting. The city already has a number of programs to support and house members of the homeless population, including Project Roomkey—which currently houses individuals in 39 local hotel rooms—and more. 

In the past 13 years, the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter (IRWS) has provided shelter for people in different properties, due to the cold weather. This winter, however, the program will not be possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The COVID pandemic has made provision of services more complicated and costlier, and the community needs a solution to house people during the upcoming cold weather season,” the staff report reads.

Instead, IRWS and the City of Davis “have been working with together with other stakeholder partners to develop a solution to allow the community to safely house unsheltered individuals in a non-congregate setting, which greatly reduces their risk of contracting COVID-19 and/or transmitting it throughout the community,” the staff report reads.

This program is in “partnership of Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter, City, CommuniCare, DOVe and Yolo Food Bank,” according to the presentation presented at the meeting.

During the meeting, Assistant City Manager Kelly Stachowicz explained that there are many empty apartments in Davis since UC Davis classes are mostly online. 

“Normally the vacancy rate for rental units in Davis is near zero,” Stachowicz said. “Right now, with UC Davis mostly virtual there are many apartments that sit empty.”

The program will aim to shelter approximately the same number of people as IRWS did in previous years. 

“The program is estimated to serve approximately 40 people per night,” Stachowicz said. “That’s the max number that the IRWS was able to serve through most of their placements in a regular year.”

Leases and medical services will be paid for by the City from their Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). Additionally, IRWS will use some of their regular CDBG funding for the program’s coordination and some of the case management.

Councilmember Will Arnold also commented that the program will reduce strain on local healthcare by proactively keeping the homeless population safe.  

“Ensuring the health and safety of our fellow community members, I mean that’s our most important job,” Arnold said. “And this includes protecting vulnerable populations, but also minimizing the strain on our healthcare system during this pandemic. And in the absence of a congregative shelter as an option, we found a creative solution in housing those in need during the winter.”

This program will also include wraparound services, such as “food, health checks and working to get folks into permanent housing,” according to Arnold.

Councilmember Dan Carson also expressed his support towards the program during the city council meeting. 

“We have to work together as a community to help [the homeless population] and to help our community as a whole,” Carson said. “So I’ll be supporting this.”

In addition, “the intent is to move participants out, into permanent housing, if possible,” according to the presentation.

Ultimately, the program will help to house vulnerable members of the homeless population during the upcoming cold winter months, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 in providing shelter.

Written by: Shraddha Jhingan — city@theaggie.org