SLO County responds to increase in homelessness

Reacting to the local increase in homelessness, the Board of Supervisors has tweaked its 7-year-old arrangement with a local community foundation in a way that will ensure money goes regularly to help the hungry.

The arrangement was set up in January 2004, the year after the county settled a lawsuit with Albertson’s Inc., whose grocery stores in San Luis Obispo and San Diego counties had incorrectly priced merchandise due to scanner violations, according to a county staff report.

San Luis Obispo County received $796,377 of the $1.85 million settlement. It gave nearly $300,000 of that to the District Attorney’s and Agricultural Commissioner’s offices for expenses incurred.

The rest, $500,000, created an endowment: the Feed the Hungry Endowment at the San Luis Obispo Community Foundation.

The endowment’s purpose, according to a county staff report, was to provide annual grants to the Food Bank Coalition to reduce hunger for those in need. Between 2005 and 2008, the Food Bank did receive $96,406.

But because of the way the agreement was worded, the principal was supposed to remain intact. Following that guideline led to the Food Bank receiving virtually nothing for the past two years, according to supervisor Adam Hill.Hill said the endowment needs to provide “a sure and steady stream.”

The language agreed to Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors would ensure that $20,000 a year goes to the Food Bank.

The downside is that the endowment could eventually be drawn down. But Hill and his colleagues say they hope that won’t happen.

Nikki Schmidt, of the county administrator’s office, wrote in an email to The Tribune, “Hopefully, the economy gets better and the earnings for the fund improve to a level that once again only the earnings are being distributed and the need lessens.”