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SLO County holds meeting to hear from community members about proposed Welcome Home Village

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Posted at 6:51 PM, Aug 31, 2023

San Luis Obispo County plans to build an 80-unit supportive housing facility for the homeless called Welcome Home Village.

It would be located near the intersection of South Higuera Street and Prado Road in San Luis Obispo.

Welcome Home Village is a key piece of the county’s Bob Jones Bike Trail Encampment Resolution Project, which aims, in part, to restore public areas for their intended purpose, all while increasing safety and providing a platform for the homeless to potentially get back on their feet through stable housing and access to vital services.

County officials say the Bob Jones Trail area is one of the largest areas for homelessness and the most prone to natural disasters, making it difficult for emergency vehicles to access.

Around 90 community members gathered at the San Luis Obispo County Government Center on Wednesday, and a little over 80 people tuned in online to share their concerns and voice their opinions about the Welcome Home Village.

County officials say many people are on board with the project, which would give every person registered in the program their own cabin.

Many others at the meeting, however, made it clear they have concerns.

“This project has not been noticed by a single business around here. You showed an informational document that says you are expecting approval and groundbreaking in the fall of 2023. The fall of 2023 is 23 days away,” one community member said.

Others had questions about safety.

“Does that mean the police will have the ability to remove [the homeless], and where do they go,” one community member asked.

“What are you doing to make San Luis Obispo the worst place on earth to do drugs? What are your KPIs for success? I have not seen that either,” another person asked.

Those involved in the project want people to know their goal is to help the community.

“We're not coming in, in a partnership like this, to create havoc. We are part of the neighborhood, and these individuals are already living there, but we want to be sure you can get your neighborhood back and be safe in that as well,” said Sylvia Barnard, Good Samaritan Shelter Executive Director.

County officials say this project will restore public areas for their intended purpose and increase safety.

“One Band-Aid for a big boo-boo isn't going to do everything," said Dawn Ortiz Legg, District 3 Supervisor. "We're going to do lots and while this isn't going to do everything, we need to do it all at once. It's the steps that we're getting to get that community back to where it needs to be.”

Officials say that many community members had concerns and questions about who will be allowed into the village and they said that sex offenders and arsonists will not be allowed to enter.

Welcome Home Village is modeled after successful programs in Santa Barbara County and is entirely funded by the state.