San Luis Obispo County will not receive up to $5 million in newly available state funds to create housing for homeless individuals with mental illnesses, after a failed search for property forced the county to take itself out of the running.
Transitions-Mental Health Association (TMHA), the lone group to step forward to work with the county on the grant, had its eye on a 12-unit apartment complex in North County that it hoped to convert into permanent supportive housing units for the homeless.
- File Photo By Jayson Mellom
- NO PLACE TO CALL HOME SLO County canceled plans to apply for up to $5 million in state grants to build more permanent housing for homeless individuals with mental illnesses.
But negotiations on a sale fell through, and the property sold to another entity. With a Jan. 30 application deadline, TMHA said it was unable to secure an alternate location in time. Joe Madsen, TMHA's housing director, told New Times that the uncertainty around the competitive grant process and the delay in receiving funds were factors in the breakdown.
"Prices here are climbing and properties are selling so fast. ... We haven't found too many landlords who were willing to wait six months [for the grant]," Madsen said.
The grants are part of the state's No Place Like Home Program—enabled by voters' approval of Proposition 2 in 2018—and the first round of funding made $400 million available statewide. Counties were given between Oct. 30 and Jan. 30 to gain "site control" of property and submit grant applications.
SLO County Behavioral Health Director Anne Robin said the state's tight application window and other constraints, like finding available apartments (single-family homes weren't eligible) close to transit and city services, made the pursuit challenging for small, rural counties like SLO.
"TMHA tried hard," Robin said. "The time frame was really short for something this large."
Robin said she'd work with state officials on trying to make the process more friendly and flexible to SLO for the next round of grants, which will open in August.
"We missed the first round; there will be other rounds," she said. "The state wanted to get the dollars out there and some larger counties may have had things ready to roll."
Madsen, with TMHA, noted that the additional time will allow the organization to explore its options and be better positioned for success.
"Having more time would be great ... and having landlords a little bit more prepared," Madsen said. "We have a really great network of landlords for today, but for tomorrow we definitely need more community support. More and better landlord relationships will turn the tide with this." Δ