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News Channel 3 Exclusive: Inside the Homeless Navigation Center in Palm Springs

It's a major project the city of Palm Springs is calling a "game changer" for addressing the homeless crisis. City and county officials gave News Channel 3's Peter Daut an exclusive tour of the new Palm Springs Navigation Center, ahead of its opening.

While most of the Navigation Center remains under construction, the early-entry facility is now open. The facility will provide 55 overnight beds inside a large, open room. Along with new beds and furniture, there are restrooms and offices for staff.

"We will have staff members present at all times to make sure the facility is secure," Palm Springs Deputy City Manager Flinn Fagg told Daut.

Homeless services provider Martha's Village and Kitchen will operate the nearly four-acre Navigation Center, which in addition to housing, will provide education and employment-training programs, case management, and family-connection services.

"Basically anybody's allowed. It doesn't matter who you are or what your issues are, if you go and check-in you qualify," Martha's Village and Kitchen President Sam Hollenbeck said. "The do's are show up, behave yourself, be a good citizen. The don'ts, we'll do a check on people as they come in. No drugs, no weapons, nothing we would consider dangerous to somebody else." 

The early-entry facility will be the second point of contact for the homeless. The first will be at the Palm Springs Access Center near the airport, where those in need of an overnight bed will be pre-screened before they're loaded in vans each night and driven to the early-entry facility. They are not allowed to go directly to the early-entry facility, to deter them from wandering through nearby neighborhoods.

"Is there priority given to homeless people who are from the Coachella Valley, versus people brought in from out of town?" Daut asked Fagg, who responded: "I'd say generally yes there is. Homeless individuals tend to like to be where they have roots, or where they know people in the community. It's less likely we'll be seeing people coming from out of town to use our facilities."

The third point of contact will be 80 modular housing units at the site, each equipped with its own restroom and kitchen. "The majority of those are going to be for single individuals, we do have a number of units for couples. We also have some units that are set aside for youth, as well as some larger family-size units that will have two bedrooms," Fagg said. Daut then asked, "I notice they are all brightly colored. Why was that important?" Fagg replied: "It's important to give them a little bit of character here on the site. You've got to think of the environment for these individuals who will be staying here." 

There will also be landscaping between the units to provide shade, in addition to a children's play area and dog park.

"Are you hopeful this will make a difference?" Daut asked Palm Springs Mayor Jeffrey Bernstein. Bernstein replied: "I think it's going to be a game changer for our city. The reality is we're not going to solve the problem. But there's a whole large contingent of people who are willing to get services and want to get help, and now we can actually help them."

The ultimate goal is for the Navigation Center to be a stepping stone for people in need of permanent housing. That could include the recently-opened Monarch Apartments, which is the city's first affordable housing community in 14 years.

"These are the people who actually want to improve their lives?" Daut asked Fagg, who replied: "Yeah, there are some who will be resistant to going through the process of obtaining housing. But even those with substance abuse issues, we will be providing full wraparound service, so substance abuse, mental health, we'll be able to assist individuals who are dealing with those issues." 

The city and county had initially hoped to see at least a partial opening of the Navigation Center last fall when the project was first announced back in 2021. But officials said supply-chain issues, along with increased construction and material costs, pushed back the timeline, while raising the total price tag to nearly $40 million.

"Are you done at this point, or will you need more money additionally?" Daut asked Riverside County Deputy Director of Government Affairs and Community Engagement Greg Rodriguez. He replied: "Well never say never. But no, as far as the first two phases of the campus, we're set." Daut asked, "Do you think this will be enough to help our homeless problem?" Rodriguez replied: "You will never solve the homeless problem, but this is going to be a huge tool."

Between the early-entry facility and the modulars, roughly 140 people are expected to be served at the Navigation Center at one time. But again, this is a transitional housing model intended to help them find something permanent. Over the course of a year, the Center hopes to serve about 300 people, the majority of whom are from the immediate Palm Springs area.

According to the county's 2023 homeless point-in-time count, Palm Springs has by far the most unsheltered people in the Valley at 239, which was up 8 percent from the year prior.

Check out Peter Daut's In-Depth Look at the Homeless Navigation Center in Palm Springs

Tuesday, March 12 at 11AM there will be an open house for the public to see what's happening at the site, and to ask any questions. The address is 3589 McCarthy Rd. For more information, visit:

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Peter Daut

KESQ News Team


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