About 40 percent of the money needed to build a Homeless Services Center has been donated or pledged to date, including $250,000 from the city of San Luis Obispo.
The San Luis Obispo City Council voted 4-1 to approve a grant agreement Tuesday detailing how the money would be paid to Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County, which plans to build and operate the center at 40 Prado Road.
Councilman Dan Carpenter dissented, passionately arguing that the money could be used to get individuals into housing instead of paying for a shelter.
"We need a paradigm shift from a shelter mentality that enables chronic homelessness to one that rehouses rapidly," he said. "Shelters are the antithesis to human dignity in my mind. They traumatize a person's spirit, and every time they walk through that shelter door a stigma attaches to them."
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Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson said the center won't solve all of the community's problems, but the services and programs that a shelter would provide are needed.
Added Mayor Jan Marx, "I think we need a diversity of approaches to the homeless situation. We need to address the problem now and it's a work in progress."
A few speakers agreed that people should not be living in shelters and supported getting them into housing, but said that it is worse for people to be living on the streets.
"The issue is that people need a humane decent place to stay in the meantime," said Scott Smith, executive director of Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo. "We want to get them out of the shelters as fast as possible but we don't want to have them living in the creeks."
The city’s Architectural Review Commission will review the Homeless Services Center’s design at its meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
If the project remains on track, CAPSLO could receive a building permit by June 1, with construction anticipated to start in late fall.
The 150-bed center will replace the Prado Day Center and the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter in San Luis Obispo and double the number of beds available in the city.
Plans call for a 20,000-square-foot single-story facility with a kitchen, laundry facilities, showers, lockers and storage, indoor and outdoor areas for children, a community room and a pet kennel. Separate dorms for men, women and families would be built.
The 24-hour facility would provide breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as case management, mental health counseling and drug and alcohol services.
The city Planning Commission on Dec. 10 unanimously approved a use permit needed to build it.
The City Council committed $250,000 in general fund reserves toward the facility last year. The agreement approved Tuesday allocates $50,000 toward design costs and $200,000 toward construction.
The construction funds will be a matching grant and available once an equivalent amount of $250,000 has been raised by CAPSLO and the Homeless Foundation for San Luis Obispo County, which was formed to raise money for the facility and to provide ongoing financial support for homeless issues in the community.
Jim Famalette, chief operating officer for CAPSLO, said the nonprofit foundation has collected or received pledges for about $1.9 million, with about $1.2 million coming from government entities and $700,000 from private donors.
He estimated that it will cost about $4.4 million to complete the project; about $150,000 has already been spent on design, architectural and engineering costs.
The foundation, still in the midst of a quiet fundraising campaign, plans to launch a public campaign in early summer.