COUNTY — Local governments may soon receive one-time funding from the state to provide direct assistance to homeless individuals and those at risk of becoming homeless.
The County of San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors declared a homeless shelter crisis on Tuesday, Nov. 6, and authorized the County’s participation in the state’s Homeless Shelter Emergency Aid Program (HEAP), which could result in $4.8 million of one-time state grant funding to combat homelessness at the local level.
This grant can fund activities that prevent homelessness, divert homeless individuals with mental health needs from the criminal justice system, establish or expand services that meet the needs of homeless youth or those at risk of becoming homeless or provide emergency aid. Anyone interested in providing input on how the County should spend the funds can complete a 10-minute online survey.
HEAP is a $500 million block grant program authorized by Senate Bill (SB) 850, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in June 2018. Local governments can declare a shelter crisis if a significant number of people’s health and safety are at risk due to lack of shelter.
In 2017, the County of San Luis Obispo identified 1,125 homeless persons in the County on a single night through its Point in Time Count completed January 2017. Of those, 69 percent (or 780 persons) went without shelter, which is significantly higher than the nationwide average of 35 percent. This number substantially exceeds the number of shelter beds available. According to the County’s 2017 housing inventory count, there were 226 local emergency shelter beds.
The County of San Luis Obispo previously declared a shelter crisis on Feb. 2, 2016, with an end date planned for April 15, 2016, due to the significant number of people without shelter that winter and the possibility of increased rain from El Nino conditions. Though this declaration was only for two months, the County has always recognized that the number of homeless persons in San Luis Obispo County is significant.