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Paso doesn’t have a place for its homeless. Now, the city has declared a shelter crisis

Here’s how SLO County counts its homeless population

San Luis Obispo County's Homeless Point-in-Time Homeless Census and Survey took place Jan. 30, 2017, to calculate the area's homeless population. Volunteers walked and drove around the county, recording any homeless individuals they saw.
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San Luis Obispo County's Homeless Point-in-Time Homeless Census and Survey took place Jan. 30, 2017, to calculate the area's homeless population. Volunteers walked and drove around the county, recording any homeless individuals they saw.

Paso Robles leaders recently declared a homeless shelter crisis, making the city eligible to apply for aid funding from the state.

The City Council last week approved a resolution stating that the health and safety of the homeless population is threatened by a lack of shelters.

Paso Robles has no permanent overnight space. The daily meals served in town are distributed in an empty lot.

The declaration means Paso Robles leaders can apply for funding through California’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP), according to a city staff report.

San Luis Obispo County will receive nearly $5 million in HEAP money, which is to be used for homeless services and prevention, criminal justice diversion and mental health needs, among other things.

Paso Robles is home to 97 homeless individuals, according to the 2017 county point-in-time count — a census conducted every two years in January.

About 253 homeless people — or 20 percent of the county’s overall homeless population — live throughout the North County, according to the count.

But the last count was conducted during the heavy rains of January 2017, which likely meant North County homeless residents were undercounted.

Gail McNichols, president of the nonprofit Paso Cares group that helps Paso Robles’ homeless population, is hoping her organization can find a building they can use to serve meals and provide running water for their clients.

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Right now, Paso Cares has only a vacant piece of city property near Riverside Avenue and 24th Street across from the Paso Robles Event Center, where volunteers serve a nightly dinner, McNichols said.

She said she’d like to see the city become more involved in caring for Paso Robles’ homeless residents — a task that falls almost solely to faith-based organizations.

“We are lacking an infrastructure for which to care for homeless people,” McNichols said.

The county will host an open public forum on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Atascadero Library to discuss the best uses for its state funding.

If you’re unable to attend the forum or would like to provide additional comments, you can take an anonymous survey at https://goo.gl/forms/CMAdOTOx19b9IJl12.

To donate to Paso Cares or inquire about volunteer opportunities, visit pasocares.org or call 805-712-4710.

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseymholden
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