How Potential Shelter Sites are Located and Vetted
The process of identifying sites for a shelter is difficult. We consider multiple factors, and none determines a given site’s viability all on its own.
We begin with the need we are trying to fill, e.g. 100 to 120 beds for adults. We then look at the parts of the County where there is an unmet need for shelter. Then, within those areas, we look for zones that allow, by right, mass shelters of the size we are looking to create (typically commercial zones).
Within those broad search parameters, we look for properties that offer the best combination of building size, layout, and condition for use as a shelter. During this process we also look for nearby features such as proximity to regular public transit, community amenities, educational resources, recreational opportunities, and social services.
This exhaustive and thorough process yields very few viable sites. But among those, we then start talking with property owners to determine whether the property is actually available for a shelter use, for how long, and on what financial terms. We have to determine, given those terms, whether the amount of investment required to occupy and convert the space into shelter is warranted.
Questions have been raised about whether sites are evaluated for how close they are to schools, homes, businesses, child care centers, and other uses. In an urban environment, it is not feasible to exclude prospective shelter sites just because they are close on the basis of proximity to these types of uses.
Some community members have pointed out that the proposed shelter site is within a mile of schools and child care centers. While this is true, it has also been true of many of the homeless shelters and homeless services in our community for years. Parole and probation officers, as they do throughout our community, enforce supervision terms that forbid someone from living within a certain distance from schools and child care centers.
While we cannot foreclose having homeless services near these uses, we can and do work to make sure those services are a good neighbor to all adjacent neighbors and uses.