Paso Robles holds the second highest number of unsheltered residents among cities in SLO County. The January 2015 point-in-time count found that the city contained 235 unsheltered individuals.
On Feb. 17, the Paso Robles City Council began addressing that issue by unanimously voting to declare a shelter crisis, which allows the city more flexibility in aiding unsheltered residents during extreme winter weather, such as opening municipal buildings as warming centers. The council voted on a sunset date for the crisis of April 15, 2016.
Paso Robles is the third government entity in the county to declare a shelter crisis, with the SLO County Board of Supervisors declaring one on Feb. 2 and Morro Bay City Council doing so on Feb. 9. The Homelessness Services Oversight Council spearheaded the effort when it determined the roughly three-fourths of SLO County’s 1,500 homeless residents spend the night outdoors.
Paso’s City Council instructed city staff to engage in discussions with the neighboring city of Atascadero, county staff, and representatives from local homeless shelter and warming center organizations to determine how the city can best contribute its resources. It did not authorize the use of city funds, but will consider doing so once more concrete plans are devised and brought back to the council in March.
On Feb. 18, Paso city staff is set to meet with key members of those parties to brainstorm ways that a shelter crisis declaration could help residents, such as choosing the best location for a municipal warming center depending on where current resources are deployed.
“We are looking to evaluate where the service gaps are and the realistic, positive ways to supplement and address them,” Assistant City Manager Meg Williamson told New Times.
Williamson realizes that the homelessness issue in Paso Robles won’t be solved in a mere two-month crisis period.
“There are layers to this,” she said. “But we have to deal with the priority that’s in front of us.”