New position will improve efficiency and coordination of services

SAN LUIS OBISPO – With the effects of the pandemic bringing new urgency to the City’s goal of addressing homelessness in San Luis Obispo, recent City Council actions will result in an enhanced regional effort in 2021. 

In local government, counties are primarily responsible for leading efforts to address homelessness, yet the impacts often are borne directly by cities. In the past year, the City of San Luis Obispo responded to 32 encampment fires and 516 medical incidents involving people experiencing homelessness, removed 70 tons of trash, and cleaned up 135 illegal encampments. 

In all, $679,000 in City funds were spent on cleanup and maintenance activities related to homelessness. The City also provided $157,000 to the 40 Prado homeless shelter for programs and operations, as well as funding for a part-time social worker to assist homeless persons, be a resource for Downtown businesses and conduct job readiness training. 

Earlier this month, the City Council approved the hiring of a full-time contract position (for two-plus years) to coordinate the City’s participation in regional efforts dedicated to addressing homelessness, including defining a more comprehensive strategy focused on achieving measurable outcomes for the community. 

The new contract position has been funded through June 2023. Short term objectives include developing a Homelessness Strategic Plan for the City that is supported by regional efforts and builds upon existing partnerships with the County, cities, and other regional non-profit partners to maximize services available. During this funding period, the determination of long-term resource needs for the City for the preparation of the City’s 2023-25 Financial Plan will be assessed.

“Homelessness is an ongoing and very complex challenge in California, on the Central Coast, and in our community,” said City Manager Derek Johnson. “Effective solutions require clear roles, close collaboration, and leadership, and that is what our efforts will continue to focus on.” 

The $300,000 investment in the new contract position supplements existing City investments and programs including:

Grants-in-Aid Program

The City’s Grants-in-Aid program, overseen by the Human Relations Commission, provides financial support to non-profit organizations that promote the economic and social wellbeing of the community, including homeless prevention programs, support services, affordable and transitional housing opportunities, hunger and malnutrition prevention, and supportive and development services for children and seniors. The City has allocated $150,000 to the GIA program annually for Fiscal Years 2019–20 and 2020–21. 

Community Action Team

The Community Action Team (CAT) began with the San Luis Obispo Police Department with two officers whose patrol focus was on the Downtown core and contacting homeless individuals. In 2018, social worker John Klevins, MSW, joined CAT through a partnership with Transitions Mental Health (THMA) and the County of SLO. Klevins works side-by-side with SLOPD Officer Tim Koznek focusing on outreach and preventive engagement with the City’s most vulnerable populations. 

Over the last year, CAT engaged with over 500 people, and of those, 127 were treated for mental health, substance abuse, or other issues. CAT also connects people with resources to find housing and other services such as veterans’ benefits, educational opportunities, social security, and more. 

Partnerships with Downtown SLO and CAPSLO 

The City provides funding for the Downtown Ambassador Program and a Social Enterprise Job Training Initiative. This includes the provision of a part-time social worker to assist homeless persons and be a resource for Downtown businesses. It also allows CAPSLO and the Downtown Ambassador to recruit homeless individuals for basic cleaning duties as part of job-readiness training. 

Funding for these initiatives come from Local Revenue Measure (Measure G-20) revenue from the current fiscal year. Measure G-20 was passed by the voters as part of the November 2020 election, and identified priorities included addressing homelessness.  

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Getting through this together, Paso Robles