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City of Arroyo Grande moves one step closer to seeing first permanent homeless shelter

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Posted at 8:51 PM, Jul 03, 2023

More homeless shelters could be coming to south San Luis Obispo County.

The City of Arroyo Grande is one step closer to seeing its first permanent homeless shelter — a move that would help address a shelter crisis declared by city leaders in 2018.

Right now, there is only one homeless shelter in south county.

A complex of tiny cabins opened late last year in Grover Beach and the program has already succeeded in getting people into permanent housing.

“I am just excited that we might actually get a permanent place,” said Arroyo Grande Mayor Caren Ray Russom while talking about the possibility of something similar opening in Arroyo Grande.

The city council approved an ordinance on June 27 that makes it easier to build an emergency homeless shelter where people can stay for up to six months.

Some people, however, say it can be difficult to get people to take advantage of these resources.

“The only thing I want to say is when it’s not raining and really cold, a lot of homeless people don’t want to go to the shelter even though we offer every resource, every option. They actually like living more outside,” said one woman who spoke at the last council meeting.

Right now, the city allows emergency shelters with a conditional-use permit.

The new ordinance streamlines the process by no longer requiring that permit which was the topic of a noticeably uncrowded public meeting on June 27.

Property owners in the affected area were notified ahead of time.

That’s because the city is expanding the areas where these shelters are allowed to include East Grand Avenue between Brisco and Halcyon Road.

“The fact that we noticed the entire area and surprisingly do not have anyone here would tell me that attitudes have changed about this particular issue,” said Arroyo Grande City Councilmember Jim Guthrie.

There are safeguards in place.

On-site security is required and each shelter can only have up to 34 beds.

The Five Cities Homeless Coalition is looking at places where they can build a new shelter in the future.

The new ordinance means that the city will be in compliance with state law.

Emergency shelters will be allowed in commercial areas along most of East Grand Avenue and parts of El Camino Real.

The ordinance will be officially adopted at the next city council meeting on July 25, and then take effect 30 days later.