Tonight, Benicia considers awarding city property to controversial nonprofit SafeQuest Solano

A SafeQuest advocate said she encountered a lawyer for the organization outside a shuttered safe house in 2021. | Illustration by Tyler Lyn Sorrow.

SafeQuest has faced eroding support and calls for an investigation into its practices after a Vallejo Sun investigation.

Vallejo Sun, by Scott Morris, November 6, 2023

BENICIA – The Benicia City Council will consider at its meeting Tuesday whether to sell or lease two city-owned buildings to be used as shelters by SafeQuest Solano, a nonprofit that provides domestic violence support services.

A proposed resolution on Tuesday’s Benicia City Council agenda does not say how much the city would charge SafeQuest to purchase or lease the property, which totals about 3,100 square feet across both buildings. Another nonprofit, House of Hope, which focuses mainly on rehabilitation facilities, would help operate the shelter, according to the resolution.

SafeQuest has faced eroding support and calls for an investigation into its practices after a Vallejo Sun investigation published in June reported that former employees said that its existing shelters were sparsely used and SafeQuest allowed an attorney for the organization to live at a shelter rented from the city of Fairfield for $1 per year.

Benicia City Manager Mario Giuliani and community development director Suzanne Thorsen did not respond to a request for comment. SafeQuest Executive Director Mary Anne Branch did not respond to written questions.

The contract with Benicia would come as the city of Fairfield considers cutting ties with SafeQuest. Following the publication of the Sun article, Fairfield issued a request for proposals to find a new operator for its shelter.

However, only SafeQuest submitted a proposal, according to Fairfield Mayor Catherine Moy. SafeQuest has sought a long-term extension of their lease since last year, but amid questions about how the property was being used, has remained on a month-to-month lease.

Moy said that she has no plans to bring a new lease for a vote by the City Council and that Fairfield City Manager David Gassaway “continues to be uncomfortable with extending the contract.”

According to Moy, Branch met with Fairfield city officials to dispute the Sun’s reporting on its shelters. SafeQuest has declined to answer any questions from the Sun and has not sought any corrections to the articles.

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