San Luis Obispo County adopted the “10-year plan to end homelessness” in 2008, but a recently released report by the county’s Homelessness Services Oversight Council shows that the number of local homeless people continues to grow. In January, the council tallied 2,186 homeless individuals—roughly 1 percent of the population—up nearly 3 percent from 2011.
As part of an effort to make some progress in an otherwise “failure” of a plan, the county is trying to get the ball rolling by finding housing for 50 of the most vulnerable homeless people.
According to SLO County Social Services Director Lee Collins, roughly 10 percent of all homeless locals use about 50 percent of all services available. He told the board of supervisors that French Hospital served as many as 7,219 homeless individuals in 2012, and that getting those individuals into housing has a ripple effect on other services countywide.
“The stability is what enables the services, not the other way around,” Collins said.
In implementing the program for the most vulnerable, the county had two options: solicit proposals from local nonprofits for services or offer those services in-house. Both ideas have their pros and cons, including eligibility for certain grant funding as well as how quickly a program could be rolled out.
County supervisors questioned the helpfulness of the staff report to make a solid decision on how to immediately proceed, namely because of a lack of definitions and metrics and a preponderance of numbers from reporting requirements and “red tape.”
“This report is an entire detachment from what’s going on with people down in the creeks and the encampments,” Supervisor Adam Hill said. “We don’t have anything about the people we have helped. This is just not telling us anything we need to know.”
“It’s time to do something concrete, and I’m not going to get caught up in whether [providing more services] is going to be a ‘magnet’ for more homeless,” Supervisor Bruce Gibson said. “That’s a recipe for paralysis.”
In the end, the board voted to have staff explore what a hybrid of the nonprofit and in-house options would look like and return to the board at a future meeting.