Shelter may need to start out smaller

Unable to find a site for the large facility it wants to build, 5Cities Homeless Coalition may scale back its plans in South County

letters@thetribunenews.comJune 12, 2013 

It’s disappointing — but not surprising — that the 5Cities Homeless Coalition has been unable to find a site for South County’s first permanent homeless services center.

In community after community, including San Luis Obispo, residents have resisted proposals for shelters, safe parking facilities and similar homeless services.

It’s been especially tough going in South County, and we commend the 5Cities Homeless Coalition for hanging in there.

Consider: The organization has looked at more than 100 potential locations for a homeless services center.

None of those worked out and recently, the most promising candidate — a0.4-acre site near downtown Oceano — fell through as well.

As Tribune writer Cynthia Lambert reported, community opposition was one factor. On top of that, the organization wasn’t able to acquire the neighboring parcels it needed.

As envisioned, the services center would be 20,000 square feet, located on two acres. It would offer a variety of services — including job counseling, housing assistance, literacy and parenting classes, mental health services and hot meals.

It would not include an overnight shelter; a needs survey indicated that the homeless population in South County was more interested in a facility similar to Prado Day Center in San Luis Obispo.

Given the inability to find a site, the 5Cities Homeless Coalition is now looking at possibly scaling back the facility.

That may be the most practical way to move forward.

The successful Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Maria, for example, began in a couple of portable buildings on a church parking lot. It has since relocated and evolved into an entire complex with short and long-term housing, a detox center, an after-school center for children, a dining hall and transitional housing, all within a few blocks of the city center.

By starting small, the shelter was able to build goodwill and gradually expand.

Given the opportunity, that same formula should work for the 5Cities Homeless Coalition.


Upcoming events benefiting the 5Cities Homeless Coalition:

• Sunday, Aug. 25, the Arroyo Grande Summer Concert in the Park at the Heritage Square Park in the Village

• Wednesday, Sept. 25, the second annual 5Cities Homeless Coalition Empty Bowls Community Luncheon at St. Patrick’s Parish Hall in Arroyo Grande

• Sunday, Oct. 27, the second annual Harvesting Hope Festival at Trilogy in Nipomo.

For more information on these events and to find out other ways to help, go to http://5chc.org  .

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