Warming center for homeless soon will be available in Arroyo Grande

Homeless people in South County will now have a warm place to sleep on cold winter nights.

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an agreement with the 5Cities Homeless Coalition on Tuesday, allowing the organization to provide an overnight shelter in a county social services department conference room in Arroyo Grande.

“As you know, there are limited services for the homeless in South County,” coalition Executive Director Janna Nichols told the board. “One thing we’ve identified is on particularly cold winter nights and wet winter nights, the health of those folks being outside is impacted.”

The shelter will only be open on nights when the temperature dips to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, or when the forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of rain on two or more consecutive nights.

On such nights, the warming center will be open from 5:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. at 1086 E. Grand Ave. The 5Cities Homeless Coalition will pay for at least two employees or contracted staff to be present when the center is open, and may contract with the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County to do so.

Nichols said she estimated the cost of operating the shelter, including paying staff and providing some food, at about $500 a night. She hopes to get some food donations as well.

The coalition will now ask the Arroyo Grande City Council to approve a conditional use permit for the location. Nichols said the center plans to start operating as soon as it is needed, but she remains “hopeful that the weather will be great for the rest of the winter season.”

“Otherwise, we’re prepared to go forward in the fall when the weather turns bad again,” she added.

The 5Cities Homeless Coalition is also working to build a Community Services Center in South County to offer a range of resources for low-income and homeless families.

The center would offer housing assistance, job training, drug and alcohol services, mental health counseling, and a permanent home for South County People’s Kitchen.