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‘We are scrambling’: 5 Cities Homeless Coalition may become homeless itself

The 5 Cities Homeless Coalition holds a warming center on Grand Avenue in Arroyo Grande at the San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services. The group is looking for a new location for both its warming center and its office services.
The 5 Cities Homeless Coalition holds a warming center on Grand Avenue in Arroyo Grande at the San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services. The group is looking for a new location for both its warming center and its office services. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The 5 Cities Homeless Coalition, which provides services to people who are homeless in the South County, could soon be homeless itself unless organizers can find a new office.

The organization was notified in February that it will no longer be able to operate out of its office space at 1052 E. Grand Ave. in Grover Beach starting May 1.

“We are scrambling,” 5 Cities board Chairman Mike Byrd said. “We knew that this was going to happen eventually, and we had some long-range planning in place, but this has kind of moved up the timeline.”

The group has had an agreement with the office’s landlords for the past four years that one suite would be donated to the coalition and another suite leased to the group and fellow nonprofit Good Samaritan Shelter for about $600 per month, Byrd said.

Rent for the second room was paid for through a veterans assistance grant, meaning the coalition has had minimal overhead expenses for several years.

That will likely change soon, depending on where the organization ends up.

Meanwhile, the coalition is still looking for a site to host its warming center next year. Its lease expires March 31 at the San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services office at 1086 Grand Ave. in Arroyo Grande, and the lease cannot be renewed.

We will have something. It may not be perfect, but we will keep the doors open. Stopping services is not an option.

Mike Byrd, 5 Cities Homeless Coalition board chairman

Byrd said they are making a list of potential spaces they could move into immediately for an administrative office and have been reaching out to churches and other local organizations to see if there is anything available.

“We are driving the streets — literally,” he said. “The goal is to find as many options as possible so that maybe one or two among them will work out.”

This would be a short-term solution, Byrd said, while the group explores the long-term option of buying land or a building to begin forming a South County homeless center where the coalition could offer all its services in one place. That site could include a cold-weather warming center, a permanent shelter for individuals who are homeless and an administrative office.

Byrd estimated that a plan like that could cost upwards of $2 million — money the group doesn’t have, because virtually all of its revenue goes into paying to provide homeless services. To pay for a center, the coalition would likely pursue a combination of donations, grants and loans.

Establishing a permanent center would depend on a combination of securing the financing and a location that was both already zoned for a center, and wouldn’t impact nearby residential or commercial properties. It would likely take two years to develop such a property.

In the meantime, Byrd was optimistic the coalition would continue to offer its services even while trying to find a home.

“We will have something,” he said. “It may not be perfect, but we will keep the doors open. Stopping services is not an option.”

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie

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