Posted: May 23, 2012 7:00 PM by Kathy Kuretich
Updated: May 24, 2012 11:02 AM
The city of San Luis Obispo is an expensive place to live by most standards. The average home costs $472-thousand dollars and the average two bedroom apartment is almost $1500 dollars in rent, in a highly competitive job market.
"This place is just a lot better. The people are friendlier," said Tim H.
We found Tim in Mitchell Park, an unemployed homeless former cabinet maker from San Diego. He said, he hasn't looked for work in quite some time, and he admits he's struggles with substance abuse. But even though he knew jobs were scarce, he came to San Luis Obispo County.
"This city compared to a lot of them, is better by far. The whole city actually has a hell of a lot more compassion than most cities," said Tim.
And we met Brian, on the streets, downtown. He came to the Central Coast from the Central Valley three years ago because of the weather. He said working is not a priority and he suffers from Crohn's diease and a liver condition.
He makes his money by panhandling. But he has a different take on the city, and the free services it provides.
"Everybody touts Prado, well serve people something good for breakfast eggs or something once a month other than cereal," he said. "The ten year plan, that's a big joke."
San Luis Obispo Police Chief Steve Gesell said his officers along with parks and rec often find camps with major public safety and environmental issues.
"We have a lot of creeks, we have a lot of foliage, there's a lot of places to set up camps and really be out of the public's eye," he said.
The police department provided pictures of homeless camps, showing piles of garbage and some a bit more graphic... including a makeshift toilet... and human waste.
They said the city cleans up and disposes 23 tons of refuse every year.
"We are not addressing status, we are purely focusing on behaviors. It has nothing to do with status," said Chief Gesell.
"I go down there and I can't take my children, my grandchildren, because they're hypodermic needles," said San Luis Obispo resident DeAnn Troutner.
Our crew took a walk down by the future site of the Bob Jones Trail and only minutes later, two men were there. We asked if they knew of homeless camps around here and they said they would take us there, if we bought them alcohol.
"buy us a beer and we'll show you," they said.
We declined, but on the way up... we discovered a camp under a bridge along Prado Road.
"People in San Luis might look down upon that, but it's real. And I think it needs to be dealt with, not just here, but everywhere," said Henry Bruington of San Luis Obispo.
But dealing with it is not a one size fits all approach. The mentally ill, substance abusers, people with chronic illness, or those forced into homelessness by the economy... all require different kinds of help.
"We tend to look at a broader picture in trying to solve the homeless situation and I think now we have to address it incrementally because of the diversity of the type of homeless," said San Luis Obispo City Councilman Dan Carpenter.
In part three of our series, we're going to talk about that by exploring possible solutions and three things you can do to help the homeless in the community.
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