Plans moved forward to help the county’s unhoused population.Recently, the County Board Supervisors unanimously approved hiring two program managers for two years to administer the Safe Parking and Blue Bag pilot programs in all districts.
According to the most recent Homeless Point-in-Time Count, at least 1,483 persons were experiencing homelessness on a single night in San Luis Obispo County. Approximately 79% of those persons were unsheltered. “Unsheltered persons must sleep in vehicles, tents or other places not meant for human habitation,” the report states. “Many unsheltered persons do not have access to hygiene or sanitation and may not have access to trash pick-up. This situation may create health and sanitation challenges for both unsheltered person and the communities in which they reside.”
Safe Parking programs, such as the one set up on Kansas Avenue in SLO in August, allow people with operating vehicles to stay there. In a final reading, the BOS passed the no-camping ordinance covering “urban Los Osos” and other areas in the county on Sept. 28, going into effect in 30 days – cars will be towed.
The Kansas site can accommodate a wide variety of vehicles including cars, vans, trucks, and RVs. It is equipped with ADA-accessible showers, restrooms, a hand wash station, and dumpsters for participants’ use.
Work took place over the weekend to expand and extend the size of the area as well as install some all-weather upgrades. The site has an initial operating period of three months but county officials told Estero Bay News that the timeframe would be extended and security would be increased.
The Blue Bag programs are directed at removing trash, which would work with residents of up to seven participating encampments on debris removal at those sites.
The program managers would work out of the County Department of Social Services. Duties include coordinating with county and other local government agencies and community partners, identifying site locations, contracting for goods and services needed for the sites, developing and implementing an evaluation process, and reporting on the results of the evaluation.
“I really hope that you get someone that is approved by the people that are on the ground working with the homeless already,” Los Osos resident Linde Owen told the Board. “That’s where we can make much better progress than hiring somebody off of a for-hire list. We need local people. We need people that understand our local needs. I am urging that the person that you do hire be vetted by community and the homeless advocates that are in the community already. I think we will do so much better, and it certainly is lacking.”
For fiscal year, 2021-2022, the cost for new hires is currently figured at about $83,000 for the remaining eight months and for FY 2022-2023, the price tag climbs to about $129,000 due to the longer period of time. At that point, things will be evaluated for “program outcomes and lessons learned, and to consider county needs,” according to a staff report.