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SLO Co. Board of Supervisors creates first-of-its-kind panel to tackle homelessness

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Posted at 6:06 PM, Sep 29, 2022

On Tuesday the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors approved a first-of-its-kind panel that aims to keep track of the county’s efforts to tackle homelessness.

The panel is made up of 11 SLO County citizens who not only make proposals and recommendations on how to battle the ongoing issue, but also hold county officials accountable in order to hit their five-year goal of reducing homelessness by 50 percent.

Homelessness is an issue in San Luis Obispo that many residents have taken note of.

"We have a big problem," said Eliza Jones, an Avila Beach resident. "I've been here for 20 years and it seems to be getting worse."

The Citizens Panel originated as a group of concerned citizens who got together to make recommendations to the county on how to battle homelessness. Many of those recommendations were accepted by SLO County, and the county decided to take it one step further.

"The county adopted us as an oversight body to make sure they’re making the kind of progress they’re committed to," explained Sam Blakeslee, a former state senator and now-member of the panel.

The oversight body is committed to metrics. They want to see progress with quarterly and annual reports to better understand what works and what does not. One of their ideas is to have a database to better organize who needs help and who is getting help, in an effort to lessen the amount of people that fall through the cracks.

"There are a number of nonprofits, faith-based organizations, cities, entities and individuals that are working as best they can," Blakeslee said. "But there's no real central organizing approach towards being sure we get deliverables."

Some of the panel's ideas to help get people off of the streets include creating a database system, establishing outreach programs and building tiny home villages and single resident occupancy units.

The SLO County residents that make up the committee are Gregory Francisco Gillett, JD, EdD; Sam Blakeslee, PhD; René Bravo, MD; Jim Salio; Helene Ansolabehere Finger, PE F.ASCE; Chuck Davidson, CDME; Laura Slaughter, RN, MSN; Justin Davis, MD; Christine Robertson; Christine Thornburgh, CPA; and Mike Draze.

The panel hopes to begin its work by meeting in early October..