City of Davis set to approve winter shelter plan that leases apartments to those experiencing homelessness

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DAVIS, Calif. (KTXL) — The city of Davis said it will not be able to run rotating emergency shelters for the homeless population this winter.

Davis is no different than other communities that struggle to provide shelter during the cold and wet months.

But it is projected to have hundreds of empty apartment units in 2020.

Only half of the nearly 40,000 University of California, Davis students are expected to return to campus, opting for remote learning instead.     

The university town usually has an apartment vacancy of a fraction of 1% during the school year.

“There’s a ton of empty apartments and that’s something you never see in town,” said city of Davis councilmember Will Arnold.

The city is set to approve a plan to lease 25 apartments for six months.

They will replace church-run emergency shelters that bring people experiencing homelessness under one roof.

“Typically, they would be served by our interfaith rotating winter shelter, which is a congregate shelter,” Arnold explained.

Meaning there is little chance for social distancing and an increased risk of COVID-19 for those already health compromised.

Supporters of the plan said there’s a big advantage to using apartment units as a winter shelter.

Unlike a rotating emergency shelter, shelter officials will know where clients are at all times.

With rotating emergency shelters, officials said there are also more opportunities to lose track of who needs health care, mental health services, drug abuse services and job search help.

“This program will include wrap-around services, potentially facilitating a transition for folks into permanent housing,” Arnold said.

The plan is an extension of California’s Project Roomkey, which leased motel rooms to house COVID-19 patients and quarantined high-risk homeless people. That program ends at the end of the year in the middle of winter.

Arnold said they is also a reason some apartment owners stepped forward.

“This will be helpful to these apartment owners who we are working with so they can fill some of these apartments,” Arnold explained.

The apartment shelter plan is a temporary measure funded by $250,000 in CARES Act federal grants.

Another $70,000 of funds will be spent on food and other support services.

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