Grover Beach cleared out a well-known homeless encampment on Highway 1 on Tuesday, with some of the camp’s former residents moving to a nearby Pismo Beach campground where at least some of their space fees have been paid by local nonprofit agencies.
The encampment, which was home to between 20 and 30 homeless people, is being cleared out in advance of a $2 million train station remodel that will add a bus drop-off area and update the existing train depot with more parking and a new entrance. City representatives also have said the closure will “address an ongoing health and safety issue” in the area.
Grover Beach began notifying the camp residents in September that they would not be able to stay at the property, which is south of the train station. At the same time, the Grover Beach Police Department posted “No Trespassing” signs along the property and issued more than a dozen trespassing citations to people living there. The residents also were warned that they could be arrested if they did not leave the camp.
The city originally planned to clear out the camp in early January, and then rescheduled to Jan. 20, but heavy rains delayed the enforcement to Tuesday.
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Police Chief John Peters said roughly 15 people were still at the site on Tuesday when officers arrived, and those people were asked to vacate the property. Police helped the individuals pack up their belongings, he said, and collected any items that were left behind.
No arrests were made nor any citations given during the enforcement, Peters said.
“Everything went really well,” he said. “Very smooth.”
Peters said he did not know where the residents went once they left the camp, though it appears many relocated to nearby campgrounds.
Janna Nichols, of the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition, said some of the residents have moved to paid camping spots at the North Beach Campground in Pismo Beach where they will be able to stay temporarily.
“That’s obviously a better place for them to be in our opinion, because it is set up for camping,” Nichols said. “They won’t be able to stay there long term of course, but right now, since it is winter, there are usually spots available so they shouldn’t have much trouble securing a spot.”
Nichols said other camp residents were encouraged to try to relocate to overnight shelters in San Luis Obispo or Santa Maria.
Local homeless advocate Dee Torres-Hill said she knew of 19 people who had moved to the Pismo Beach campground as of Tuesday afternoon, including Genieva Upton-Young — a homeless woman who spoke to The Tribune last week about living in the Highway 1 encampment.
Torres-Hill said SLO Housing Connection paid about $800 for five of the campsites for a week, and nonprofit SLO County Womenade is paying $175 for a campsite for Upton-Young and her family. Torres-Hill is now looking for any other nonprofits that are willing to pay for campsites for some of those displaced this week, and has sent a message to the county Homeless Services Oversight Council supportive services subcommittee asking for further assistance, she said.
Charles Hubert, who lived in the Highway 1 camp, said he received a voucher from a “coalition with the churches” for a limited stay at a state campground, though he did not know the name of the organization that issued the voucher.
In the meantime, Grover Beach will continue to clean up the train station property, in preparation for it to be fenced in. Once fences are in place, the area will be monitored by police, using video surveillance and officer visits during site preparation and construction of the train station expansion, according to a city news release.