San Luis Obispo County could be adding an additional 100 beds for the homeless thanks to a one time state grant.
California’s one-time block grant called the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) aims to address homelessness in the state.
The county got nearly $5 million dollars to spend on homeless services.
The top projects on the list include a two-part housing project in Grover Beach, the first homeless shelter in Paso Robles and a detox program at 40 Prado in San Luis Obispo.
“There’s a lot of people out here that need help, I am one of them,” said Frank James Blanchard, a homeless man living in San Luis Obispo.
Blanchard is homeless and says he sleeps in a hammock when shelters are full.
“I keep my hammock right here handy just in case there aren’t enough beds,” said Blanchard.
However, soon three new projects could keep people like frank off the streets.
The San Luis Obispo County Homeless Services Oversight Council recommended $2.6 million for a joint housing project by the Five Cities Homeless Coalition and People’s Self-Help Housing.
The county says the money will be used to purchase the hillside church property in Grover Beach and provide youth services.
“All of them had very good organizational capacity, strong applicants so we felt they could manage the money well,” said Laural Weir, the county’s homeless services coordinator.
According to Wier, the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition made a contingent offer on the Hillside Church property.
Another $1.5 million will be used for the construction of the first ever homeless shelter in Paso Robles and the expansion of the existing Echo Shelter in Atascadero.
The shelter in Paso Robles would feature showers, laundry facilities, pet accommodations and access to a case manager.
“The city of Paso Robles project is where the city owns the property [Paso Cares] is proposing to build on,” said Wier. “They have already done some assessment of what any environmental issues might be because those are what typically delay projects, so they are very much ready to move forward with that project.”
And $400,000 will go to a detox program at 40 Prado in San Luis Obispo.
Supervisor Adam Hill represents the board of supervisors on the council and says these projects address north and south county needs.
“All of the projects that were recommended also have some housing component to it because ultimately what you want to do is get the people into some living units and that will help people become more self-sufficient,” said Hill.
The two-part housing project in Grover Beach is facing strong opposition with neighbors, but the county hopes to find a middle ground.
“We will find other ways to address some of the neighborhood concerns such as the warming center and some of the concern that it might bring too much pressure in their neighborhood which is understandable,” said Hill.
“The only concern with risk we had was with the 5 Cities project,” said Wier. “Their initial proposal had rehabilitation of one of the buildings so there were just concerns for that particular property for the rehabilitation would require a general plan amendment and that is a lengthier process.”
Both Wier and Hill agreed centralized homeless developments are needed in North and South County.
“I just felt that if we didn’t move forward with something in South County then we were never going to move forward with something,” said Hill. “The next round of funding will be somewhat contingent on our ability to show that we spent it well.”
The council looked for project readiness since funds have to be spent by June of 2021, taking into consideration risk factors and potential success of the projects
“The number of shelter beds that we have as well as the number of people sheltered,” said Wier. “It also includes exits to positive destinations, in other words, do we help people get into permanent housing.”
If the projects are successful, it could open the door for more funding in the future.
The board of supervisors will have the final say on this funding proposal.
They can either approve or deny it.
If it is approved, then the non-profits can start construction and expansion and we could see these services in action by 2021.
The San Luis Obispo County board of supervisors will vote on funding the proposal on April 23rd.