Homeless coalition plans new community services center for Oceano

Members of the 5Cities Homeless Coalition hope to open a South County Community Services Center in Oceano to serve the needs of the homeless as well as local residents.

The organization recently entered a 24-month escrow on an approximately 0.4-acre parcel that’s owned by a former Oceano services district board member and located just a few blocks from Front Street (Highway 1), the community’s main thoroughfare.

But the coalition is already facing opposition from leaders of the local community services district, who say plans to open a center in that location do not align with ongoing efforts to revitalize the downtown core.

“Communities often complain about a facility like this being placed in our backyard,” said Oceano Community Services District board President Matt Guerrero. “Our complaint is not that. It’s that it’s being placed in our front yard.”

The property, located at 2096 Nipomo St., is owned by Rick Searcy, according to the San Luis Obispo County assessor’s website. The purchase price was not disclosed, but its assessed value on the assessor’s website is $231,858.

Searcy, who is running for re-election to the services district, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Janna Nichols, executive director of the 5Cities Homeless Coalition, said the intent of a lengthy escrow process is to allow the coalition time to reach out and engage the community and finalize the design and services to be offered.

The coalition had hoped to acquire a parcel that is at least 2 acres, so coalition members now have to decide whether they will modify their plans or try to buy other nearby parcels.

Coalition members looked at more than 100 properties in the Five Cities area and made several offers on parcels in Grover Beach and Pismo Beach. When asked why the center couldn’t be located in another area, Nichols said: “Well, if you want to help me identify that piece of property, I’d be happy to look at it.”

The day center would provide a health clinic, career and housing assistance, literacy programs, veterans services, a permanent home for South County People’s Kitchen, showers and other services.

San Luis Obispo County’s most recent homeless enumeration report counted 3,774 individuals without permanent housing. Of those, 26 percent live in the South County from Avila Beach to Nipomo. A center of this nature was identified in 2008 in the county’s 10-year plan to address homelessness, Nichols said.

“The breadth of services we intend to bring will be a benefit to the community,” she added.

However, members of the Oceano services district, which provides water, sewer, fire and street lighting services, are worried. They are concerned that, until recently, they weren’t aware of the coalition’s plans.

“You’re going to put this huge project in here? We have revitalization in here,” board member Mary Lucey said. “And you’re going to tell me the people doing revitalization have no idea what your plans are?”

The homeless coalition plans to present its plans and answer questions during a special meeting of the Oceano Advisory Council on Oct. 30. The advisory council advises planners and supervisors on projects and developments.

The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. at 1655 Front St.

Location of proposed South County Community Services Center

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