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City passes camping ordinance as temporary homeless site in Paso Robles is set to close

borkey flats.png
Posted at 6:16 PM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-09 01:02:31-04

The temporary camping site for the homeless in Paso Robles will soon close down.

This comes as the city is tightening the rules on camping.

Under a new urgency ordinance, camping is allowed in the city between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. daily. This applies only if a shelter is not available.

After a several month-long run, the temporary emergency encampment at Borkey Flats will close on November 1.

"We did not have as many people camping there as expected," said Julie Dahlen, City of Paso Robles Community Services Director.

With roughly 10 people on any given night, the site, located in a flood plain, will need to suspend operations with the rainy season approaching.

"It wouldn't be safe to encourage camping there during winter months," Dahlen said.

Nonprofits ECHO and Paso Cares are working with the city to find space for an indoor emergency shelter.

"Really, just a building is needed," said Wendy Lewis, ECHO Homeless Shelter President/CEO. "It could be a church. It could be a retail business. Somewhere in the right location."

Limiting wildfire risk and protecting the water source are top of mind when it comes to Salinas Riverbed camping.

When it comes to enforcement…
"We just have a few officers who work specifically on our Community Action Team to try and tackle some of those issues but in reality, we're really trying to provide resources," said Commander Caleb Davis, Paso Robles Police Department.

A long-term shelter is also a priority. A homeless shelter was once planned on Sulpher Springs Road but the need for a pedestrian path brought the project over budget, forcing the idea to be nixed.

"We know the need is huge. There are about 225 people unhoused in Paso Robles," Lewis said.

ECHO secured CARES Act funds that can be used for a temporary emergency location but they say donations would be useful as well.

The city also adopted the urgency ordinance to ensure that the regulation of camping is consistent with the parameters set by Martin V. City of Boise.