H-SAN LUIS OBISPO

May 22, 2013 6:39 PM by Keli Moore, KSBY News

Ending homelessness in San Luis Obispo

Putting an end to homelessness is an ongoing effort.

The city of San Luis Obispo wants to try something San Diego is doing. It's a giving campaign.

There are parking meters all over downtown, so imagine one that's colorful and designated as a donation station. Put your change in the meter, and it goes to charity. By doing this, San Luis Obispo hopes to stop people from giving to panhandlers.

"Until we reduce the lucrative environment of downtown, that factor will continue to draw program-resistant individuals to San Luis Obispo," said Police Chief Steve Gesell, San Luis Obispo Police Department.

Downtown can be an economic machine for some, and city officials said putting an end to this is on their agenda.

"Some of the pilot programs around the country have shown that if people have a place to donate to homeless people they can do so without encouraging panhandling," said Daryl Grigsby, Public Works Director for San Luis Obispo.

"The city would not run the directive giving campaign. It's run by an association or business group, like it is in San Diego," said Gesell.

The money collected in the giving meter would go to social service agencies to help those who are homeless.

"Rather than hand the money to a panhandler, which most professionals will tell you nine times out of 10 that money is going to fuel an addiction," said Gesell.

Police Chief Gesell said beyond that some transients are the ones who commit crimes in downtown.

He said the next step is fixing the justice system, because as it stands, when a transient gets a ticket for an infraction, like being drunk in public, urinating in public, or aggressively panhandling, the ticket often slides through the system. Gesell said some repeat offenders have dozens of tickets, and they have never made a court appearance.

"There is talk of creating a homeless court, which would focus on our chronic offenders, and we would send them to a commissioner," said Gesell.

In the meantime, a team of officers on foot patrol will be stationed in downtown.

"Within the next few weeks we will form our first ever Community Action Team or CAT Team," said Gesell.

Another solution is expanding San Luis Obispo's homeless shelter. Officials said the Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter is falling apart.

The Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo or CAPSLO has secured a million dollar grant for a new shelter, but more funding is needed before construction can begin.

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