ECHO helps house 41 individuals and 16 people find employment in third quarter

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board acted jointly with the City Council on Tuesday night, Jan. 16, to discuss and approve the County of San Luis Obispo to serve as an additional contracting agent with the Paso Basin Cooperative Committee (PBCC).

In 2014, the California State Legislature enacted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), mandating local management of groundwater through Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) and Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs). The Paso Robles GSA, along with four other local agencies, formed the Paso Basin GSAs to collectively manage the Paso Groundwater Subbasin. They established a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), creating the PBCC for GSP development and SGMA implementation. 

This implementation stage involves projects like importing supplemental water to reduce groundwater pumping for sustainable use. The city is currently the contracting agent, but the newly approved resolution allows the County of San Luis Obispo to act as a contracting agent, allowing for flexibility. This change, according to the city, aims to utilize county resources, easing the demand on city staff. 

However, it was not a unanimous approval, with Councilmember Chris Bausch voting no. 

Agreeing with some residents who spoke during public comment, Bausch was concerned with allowing the county to have any authority in the GSA.

“I can’t, in good conscience, get behind this … I trust you a lot more than I trust the county,” said Bausch.

At the start of the discussion, Councilmember Sharon Roden also shared concerns, “I want to make sure that we are not giving up control.” 

However, City Manager Ty Lewis assured the council that this would not give the county control in the GSA, adding, “We trust, but we verify.” 

Council then heard a quarterly update from the El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO). The city first approved their MOU with ECHO in August 2022, requiring ECHO to form a Community Stakeholder Committee (CSC) and to provide quarterly accounting and reports to the city prior to the funds being issued. Payments will be made on a quarterly basis not to exceed $222,000 per fiscal year or $444,000 in total in FY 2022-23 and FY 2023-24 and directly funds the Paso Robles campus.

During the third quarter of FY 2022-23, ECHO faced a budget deficit of $96,286.62, attributed to the reimbursable nature of their funding streams. The Paso Robles facility transitioned to a 90-day shelter program. The City Council reconvened the ECHO Ad Hoc Committee to address concerns, led by Mayor John Hamon and Councilman Steve Gregory, and the committee recommended clarifications to the MOU. Discussions focused on differentiating between nightly lottery program beds and 90-day temporary shelter beds. 

The resulting First Amendment to the ECHO Supplemental MOU outlines key points:

  • ECHO maintains five nightly lottery beds and 45 90-day temporary shelter program beds.
  • One nightly single-occupancy crisis room is provided for placement by Paso Robles Police or Emergency Services.
  • Couples or families’ placement is contingent on insurance requirements and staff availability.
  • Due to low attendance, ECHO will reduce quarterly stakeholder meetings to twice a year, opting for a monthly newsletter to update stakeholders on operations, statistics, community concerns, and strategies for addressing homelessness. The newsletter will prominently display ECHO contact information for stakeholder reporting.

From September 2023 to November 2023, ECHO saw the following:

  • Total Night by Night Shelter Stays: 863
  • Individuals That Did Not Receive a Room: 380
  • Unduplicated Nightly Shelter Stays: 178 (Unduplicated through Quarter)
  • Number of 90 Day Emergency Shelter Beds: 45
  • Number of Night by Night Shelter Beds Maintained: 5
  • Total Shelter Stays (90 Day and Night by Night): 4,550

Additionally, they were able to house 41 individuals and 16 people found employment with the help of ECHO.

The next Paso Robles City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 6, at 6:30 p.m.