The strategic plan was approved with a 4-1 vote, with Councilmember Chris Bausch voting no
PASO ROBLES — Council discussed and approved a city strategic plan to address homelessness during the Tuesday, Dec. 5, City Council meeting. The plan, which received support from the El Camino Homeless Organization, was initiated in May by the council.
A working group was formed that same month to work together to develop the plan.
The invited group was comprised of a group of city staff, members of the former Unhoused Futures Studies Task Force, members of the Paso Robles community who have “lived” homeless experiences, and representatives from stakeholder agencies and organizations. According to city staff’s report, “Over a six-month period, city staff met with the working group to identify areas of focus, goals, and actionable objectives that aligned with city priorities and the San Luis Obispo Countywide Plan to Address Homelessness adopted in August of 2022.”
The group, convened during the summer and fall, conducted a comprehensive SWOT [Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, And Threats] analysis and gathered feedback from public meetings and an online form to shape their approach in addressing homelessness in alignment with the San Luis Obispo Countywide Plan. The resulting focus areas include programs and services, behavioral health, education, outreach and training, housing continuum, funding and resources, and policies and procedures.
To operationalize these goals, the working group collaborated with city staff to formulate goals and objectives. Four foundational goals were prioritized for the first year of implementation. First, the hiring of a City Homeless Services Manager was identified to coordinate efforts, prevent duplication of services, and manage grants. Second, a communication plan was proposed to raise community awareness about the Paso Robles Strategic Plan to Address Homelessness. Third, a financial needs assessment was recommended to determine funding requirements and explore potential options. Lastly, the development of a budget aligned with plan priorities aimed to maximize return on investment.
Prioritization of the remaining goals was delegated to the homeless services manager, who, in coordination with coordinating partners, would present an annual report to the City Council. This iterative process ensures ongoing evaluation and adaptation to address evolving needs and challenges in the pursuit of sustainable policies promoting health, safety, and housing stability.
Per the 2022 San Luis Obispo County Homeless Census & Survey Comprehensive Report, 239 individuals were identified as homeless in the City of Paso Robles. Two hundred and twenty-one of those were unsheltered. For the past several years, concerns have been raised regarding the homeless population living in the Salinas Riverbed and increasing the risk for wildfires. Efforts to mitigate those risks caused by the riverbed encampments resulted in over $102,000 in General Fund money being spent on riverbed clean-up efforts.
The Paso Robles Police Department reported responding to 2,455 calls for service related to homelessness in 2022 — a 69 percent increase from 2020. Homelessness is an epidemic affecting the entire state, which has reported over 171,000 homeless individuals in 2022. California also leads the nation in the percentage of homeless individuals who are unsheltered at 67.3 percent.
The strategic planning working group included representatives from the following local organizations:
- County of San Luis Obispo Behavioral Health
- County of San Luis Obispo Health Agency
- County of San Luis Obispo Homeless Services Division El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO)
- Housing Authority San Luis Obispo (HASLO)
- NAMI San Luis Obispo County
- Paso Robles Housing Authority
- Paso Robles Joint Unified School District
- Paso Robles Templeton Chamber of Commerce
- Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance Philanthropy Faith Hope & Love
- Transitions Mental Health (TMHA)
- Travel Paso
- Twin Cities Community Hospital
It was also noted by staff that accountability will be a crucial part of the strategic plan, though the parameters of such haven’t been outlined yet. Accountability was also a stressed concern from the public in initiating this project.
So what will the plan cost the city? So far, there will be no immediate financial action for the city but the plan really can’t get into auction until a homeless services manager is hired. The new manager will be responsible for key tasks, coordinating partnerships, and monitoring and reporting progress on the plan. This position and related operation costs is expected to cost the city around $200,000. Further actions needed will depend on the city’s budget for the 2024-25 and 2025-26 fiscal years. There are also hopes to receive grant and other partnership opportunities to support the plan.
“I don’t see this as an ultimate plan,” said Councilmember Fred Strong regarding the strategic plan. “That’s why we need the coordinator. I see this as an expression of the community’s desired results … in that aspect, it’s a good plan.”
The strategic plan was approved with a 4-1 vote, with Councilmember Chris Bausch voting no.
The next Paso Robles City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 6:30 p.m.