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Police warn of homeless people, inmates being brought to quarantine in Palm Springs

Updated: Mar 14, 2021

Police warn that dozens of homeless inmates are being brought into the city and released.

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County officials said the people are brought here to quarantine or isolate as part of a county-funded public health program. But city leaders are upset they had no idea it was happening.

Last week, officers discovered about 30 people had been bused in from outside the Coachella Valley, PSPD Chief Bryan Reyes told city council. "Who knows how many have been coming into our city," Reyes said. "It's a little disturbing."

Some of them were inmates being released from the county jail in Banning, Reyes said. They were arrested outside the valley, in western parts of Riverside County like Riverside, Corona and Jurupa Valley, served their sentence, then were brought to Palm Springs.

At least one person was re-arrested by PSPD.

The program, which is part of the county's Department of Infectious Diseases, aims to help at-risk homeless people quarantine for about a week in an unidentified Palm Springs hotel. Then, they're released into the city.

No notice of the program was sent from the county to the city or police. Reyes said officers learned about it from the individuals themselves.

"We've made attempts to contact the program manager to get some answers, to understand, to partner," he said.

City council appeared furious that they weren't warned, and aren't getting resources from the county to help.

"This cannot continue like this and it's really unacceptable to our city, our residents, our businesses that this is happening," said Councilmember Geoff Kors.

"We have a very, very large number of extremely angry residents and merchants," said Mayor Pro-Tem Lisa Middleton. "We've now learned they have reason to be angry."

"We should not be a dumping ground for the entire county in this type of program, especially without partnership of our police chief," said Mayor Christy Holstege.

In a statement to News Channel 3, a Riverside County spokeswoman said the public health program has been in place since 2004, most often helping people discharged from the hospital.

She said efforts are made to place people close to where they live.

City leaders are now calling for answers and immediate reform, pushing for a high-priority meeting with Supervisor Perez and planning to take action at their meeting this week.

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