Editorials

New homeless shelter in SLO will finally become a reality

Elected officials and homeless services providers dig in their shovels during the groundbreaking event for the new Homeless Services Center at 40 Prado Road in November 2016.
Elected officials and homeless services providers dig in their shovels during the groundbreaking event for the new Homeless Services Center at 40 Prado Road in November 2016. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Good work, San Luis Obispo.

The goal of raising $5.4 million for a new homeless shelter at 40 Prado Road has not only been met, it’s been exceeded.

The Homeless Foundation of San Luis Obispo County announced Saturday that $5.6 million has been raised so far. Large donations — such as an anonymous challenge grant of $250,000 — helped enormously, but it’s especially gratifying to know that more than 1,000 people contributed to the cause. As we’ve reported previously, donations included $4,228 in sponsorships from three college students who bicycled across the country and $175 from an elementary school student who held a bake sale.

The new Homeless Services Center at Prado Road will provide 100 beds, plus support services such as medical care, employment counseling and after-school counseling for children. It will replace the aging, rundown Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter and the Prado Day Center. Construction is expected to begin in March and finish by the end of the year.

That’s excellent news, because the need is huge. As welcome as the recent rains have been, they have also underscored the importance of emergency shelters in all of our communities. One example: A warming shelter in the South County that had been serving maybe a dozen people per night last year is now overflowing with 30 or more people per night.

And it isn’t just emergency shelter that’s needed, but also transitional housing and low-cost, permanent housing.

It almost sounds ungracious to say this, but as much as we applaud the milestone of reaching the funding goal for the Prado Road center, we can’t stop there.

There are many other unmet needs, but, fortunately, there are efforts underway in other areas of the county.

One of the most recent is also one of the most potentially far-reaching: A plan spearheaded by the city of Paso Robles to convert the vacant El Paso de Robles Youth Correctional Facility into a multiuse development that would include transitional housing for families and individuals who are homeless; farmworker housing; and workforce and low-cost housing.

That’s an excellent goal. As Tribune columnist Phil Dirkx recently noted, the state of California has been spending $700,000 per year to secure and maintain the correctional facility, which works out to $5.6 million paid by taxpayers since the site closed. That’s a waste on two counts: It’s money down the drain, and it’s preventing the property from being put to other good uses.

We commend the city of Paso Robles for taking on this project, and we strongly urge it to continue to advocate for the reuse of what is, after all, property belonging to the people of California.

Now, back to the business at hand: We offer our congratulations to John Spatafore, chair of the Homeless Foundation of San Luis Obispo County, and to all the volunteers and donors who had a hand in the successful fundraising campaign for the Prado Road center.

It’s been a long time coming, but it will be well worth it.

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