‘San Luis Obispo may be getting a media-driven reputation as the ‘Happiest Place in America,’ but despite the hyperbole, a serious homelessness problem exists and certainly not everybody on the streets is overjoyed.”
That’s Bill Seavey talking, and the Cambria resident knows of where he speaks. Housing in one form or another has occupied the better part of his adult life. Whether fighting to get a dream home built in the Pacific Northwest (blocked by bureaucracy, which led to his wife’s suicide) or building a straw-bale house in Baja, he’s been on the forefront of alternative housing and homelessness issues.
On a personal note, I like Seavey; we’ve been cordial correspondents over the past few years, giving me the opportunity to get to know someone who walks the walk when it comes to alternative housing and living green. He’s authored tracts, pamphlets and books on his experiences.
This is to say I can vouch for him when he sets his mind to something, and that something in this case is the impending eviction of those homeless folks who are living at Dan De Vaul’s Sunny Acres ranch.
It should be noted that Seavey has no dog in De Vaul’s fight, other than a humanitarian interest in seeing that the 20 or so individuals on the ranch aren’t simply dumped on the streets. So, in an effort to stop that looming eviction order, Seavey is putting his money where his mouth is and is looking for like-minded individuals.
Toward that end, he’s opened an account — seeding it with $1,000 — to help De Vaul with planning and building requirements that will hopefully lead to an 8,000-square-foot homeless shelter on De Vaul’s 72-acre ranch at the northwestern reaches of Laguna Lake.
De Vaul’s case is pretty well known by now. He’s housed the homeless in an alcohol- and drug-free environment for the past decade or so. Although well intended, some of the buildings that he’s used to keep his folks dry and out of the weather were found to be substandard.
De Vaul, in fact, was found guilty of a couple of Building Code violations in relation to the structures and is facing time in County Jail. But, that was then, this is now.
In the intervening period between his dust-ups with the law and now, De Vaul has erected some credible living spaces for his charges.
After taking a tour of the ranch, Seavey found, “The sturdy cabins are wood framed, electrified, finished inside with wallboard, partly furnished and have galvanized steel roofs and windows.” Showers and bathrooms are in a nearby ranch house.
Now, here’s an interesting note: Similar structures are being used in Fresno for the homeless — although Seavey believes De Vaul’s housing is superior to Fresno’s, which are “essentially tool sheds.”
How and why does Fresno allow its homeless to live in such quarters, and San Luis Obispo County doesn’t? The Fresno structures (whose story can be found at www.poverellohouse.org) have received conditional use permits using campground criteria. Can’t the same be done here?
OK, so that was the windup; here’s the pitch: “De Vaul has already established a working relationship with the county, having spent thousands on site planning for the proposed 8,000-square-foot residence,” Seavey said.
“As a concerned citizen, I have established an account at Heritage Oaks Bank — account No. 5396484 — to assist Sunny Acres with further county building requirements provided there are no evictions.
“If the evictions go forward, all donations above $50 will be refunded right away, with the balance going to local nonprofits such as the Prado Day Center.
“This is an opportunity for those of you who are sympathetic to the goals of Sunny Acres to make a financial and philosophical commitment,” Seavey said. “And if you have friends or relatives threatened with homelessness — as I do and once was — recognize that what Sunny Acres is doing is a step in the right direction, and that it’s time to take the politics out of it.”
I’ve written in the past about De Vaul and his effort to keep some of our homeless clean and sober as well as having to fend for themselves by camping next to the “crick,” as De Vaul says.
Each time, angels among us have wanted to know what they can do to help. Well, now you know.
Reach Bill Morem at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 781-7852.