City, ECHO and Paso Cares collaborating

PASO ROBLES — To respond to high fire risk conditions and follow guidance for providing shelter to those experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City is offering an emergency, temporary camping area with individual tents and basic services.

City officials hope by relocating homeless individuals currently living in encampments in the Salinas Riverbed to a safer, lower fire-hazard area in which security and basic services can be provided it will reduce the number of fires in the riverbed.

Moving the homeless out of the riverbed will allow the City to further implement its hazardous fuel reduction measures in the riverbed.

“Paso Roblans have a proud history of providing a safe and nurturing quality of life for our residents,” said Julie Dahlen, Community Services Director for the City. “While the growing problem of homelessness is not unique to Paso Robles, it runs counter to these core values. The City’s immediate goal in providing this temporary camping area is to minimize fire danger for those residing in the riverbed and for the community. But it is just the first step in seeking long-term solutions to a complex social issue.”

The temporary camping area for homeless has room for up to 20 tents and space for people living in vehicles to park. Photo by Brian Williams

Paso Robles has experienced over 400 fires in the riverbed over the last three years, many due to cooking and warming fires. Also, habitation in the riverbed has the potential to contaminate one of the City’s major sources of water. 

The outdoor camping area, located at 3501 North River Rd., opened Wednesday, Aug. 5. The 20-space expandable camp is equipped with individual tents and safe parking for people living in vehicles. 

The City of Paso Robles, in partnership with El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO) and Paso Cares, will provide daily services at the site. Also, private security will be provided to help foster a safe and welcoming environment. 

The City is providing restrooms, trash service, hand washing stations, and showers. Paso Cares and ECHO are partnering to provide one meal per day onsite, seven days a week. Additionally, mental health and addiction services will be available. 

The site owned by the City and not currently in use was chosen for its proximity to existing encampments, low cost and availability. Input from service providers indicated that residents currently sheltering in the riverbed are more likely to relocate to an open and safe area if it is near their current encampments. 

The City continues to work closely with the County and ECHO on developing long-term plans for mitigating fire risk in the Salinas riverbed and long-term projects for the 200-plus homeless individuals estimated to live in the Salinas Riverbed, 74 percent of whom are SLO County natives, according to the most recent point-in-time count. A longer-term solution is anticipated sometime in 2021. Community input will be sought as part of that process. 

“The City looks forward to continued collaboration with Paso Cares and ECHO to make sustained progress in achieving our shared goal of successfully addressing homelessness in our community,” Dahlen said. 

For a list of Frequently Asked Questions about this project, visit www.prcity.com/DocumentCenter/View/29776/Temporary-Encampment-and-Safe-Parking-FAQs-PDF

In addition to the services provided by this collaboration, individuals and families experiencing homelessness can contact their local homeless continuum of care. In SLO County, they can also call 211 for help.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles