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Lack of affordable housing leads to increase in homelessness in SLO County

Lack of affordable housing, substance abuse, and mental health issues lead to a homelessness increase in San Luis Obispo County
Posted at 10:41 PM, Aug 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-02 08:23:30-04

A new study shows the number homeless people in San Luis Obispo County has jumped double-digits in the last two years.

The answer seems to be the lack of affordable housing, combined with substance abuse and mental health issues.

"A place that I'd thought I would never end up in life would be homeless," said San Luis Obispo County resident Robert Zeigler.

Former Paso Robles resident Robert Ziegler was diagnosed with cancer, which eventually ended up putting him out of work. Then he ran into a housing market he wasn’t financially prepared for.

“It'’s amazing how quickly it can happen to people," said Zeigler.

San Luis Obispo County Social Services reported a 32 percent increase in homelessness from 2017. That's nearly 1,500 people with no place to live.

"People are finding it harder to find places to rent. It not only contributes to people becoming homeless, but it also causes people to remain homeless longer," said homeless services coordinator Laurel Weir with the Department of Social Services,

The Prado Homeless Services Center says it’s seen an increase in elderly people.

"Elderly people that have been either priced out of housing or for whatever reason are no longer able to be where they were, and those are very challenging because they often will bring with them medical, chronic medical conditions or some mental health conditions," said deputy director of Prado Homeless Services Center Grace McIntosh.

John Klevins, a social worker with Community Action Team, agrees on the need for a housing solution, but he says fixing it would take up too many resources and it doesn’t address the root of the problem.

"I think the biggest help is on the two things that make up 75 percent of the homeless population: the substance abuse, reaction, resources, more funding, more programs, more people involved in that aspect and the same thing with mental health issues," said C.A.T. social worker, John Klevins.

While homeless is increasing, Ziegler is proof that there is hope and assistance available.

Ziegler will be moving into his new home on Saturday.