Update: City finds 24 active camps in riverbed, evacuates homeless
Update March 6:
A special team of Paso Robles Police Officers walked a cumulative 18 miles last week to implement a comprehensive riverbed evacuation of homeless encampments. The primary focus of this evacuation is to prevent loss of life in light of the pending arrival of an “El Nino” storm system that is predicted to bring high waters and potential flooding to the Salinas River corridor.
Officers have confirmed a total of 46 encampments in the riverbed through Paso Robles. Of those, 24 were active and occupied. Face to face contact has been made with an individual in each active camp, where instructions for evacuation and information of what services and resources are available to that individual are being provided.
Lieutenant Ty Lewis who is heading up the evacuation effort states, “The numbers are promising, as those who may be in need of sheltering are significantly lower than the initial estimate of 70-90 individuals.”
The City continues to partner with the local non-profit organization Paso Cares who are prepared to take care of those in need of sheltering this weekend. Paso Cares is working with their business and community partners to meet the immediate sheltering need, but they themselves are in need of additional resources. Both volunteers and resource contributions would be welcomed by their organization to sustain their services in Paso Robles.
Those in need of shelter this weekend are encouraged to contact Paso Cares at (805) 712-7067. If you know someone in need or believe you can help, you may contact Paso Cares President Cherie Michaelson at that same number, or visit www.pasocares.org.
Update March 4:
Update: dozens of riverbed camps evacuated
No specific evacuation location assigned to homeless
–Dozens of encampments in the Salinas Riverbed have been evacuated this week, in an effort to prevent loss of life and reduce exposure of both citizens and emergency responders in the event of rapidly rising water and flooding in the river in a forecasted storm.
According to Assistant City Manager Meg Williamson, there is no specific location in place that will take the homeless evacuees in within the city. Rather, the city is working with organizations such as Paso Cares to, “connect the homeless with resources,” Williamson said.
There were over 40 different “camps” of homeless that were in the riverbed, according to Stormwater Manager David LaCaro, with an estimated total of 70-90 people. Some encampments were so extensive that they had outdoor showers, canopies, and other infrastructure.
Original story March 3:
City begins riverbed evacuation
Evacuations began Wednesday in preparation for forecasted storm
–At Tuesday night’s Paso Robles City Council meeting, the council voted to approve a multi-phased response to the homeless shelter crisis and encampments along the Salinas River. Implementation has already begun in light of the potential danger of an estimated 70-90 citizens camping in a flood plain with the weekend’s forecasted storms.
The response will include three parts:
- Riverbed pre-evacuation – to proactively reduce exposure of both citizens and rescuers in the event of rapidly rising water and flooding.
- Warming shelter plan – to temporarily provide for protection of life and safety in adverse weather conditions.
- MASH (Mobile Assistance & Services Addressing Homelessness) event – an encore of the 2015 event held at the Paso Robles Event Center to connect the homeless with a multitude of needed services.
The council approved the appropriation of $69,000 from general fund reserves to accomplish this work.
With a forecasted “El Nino” storm due this weekend, contact with river campers began on Wednesday. The city will continue to engage the support and services of groups like Paso Cares to respond to logistical and social challenges arising from homelessness.
The primary concern is to prevent loss of life and reduce exposure of both citizens and emergency responders in the event of rapidly rising water and flooding in the river, according to assistant city manager Meg Williamson. “The forecast of an imminent ’El Nino’ storm system underscores the need for swift action to save lives,” she said.
A team of city fire, police and public works staff has developed the evacuation plan that will include posting of notices, one-on-one contacts, and the offering of resource connections that can be of assistance to the campers.
Lieutenant Ty Lewis of the Paso Robles Police Department will oversee the evacuation plan. “City staff has taken great care in identifying and mapping the many encampments along the Salinas Riverbed,” said Lewis. “Our team of city fire, police and public works staff is sensitive to the needs of those involved, and has developed a comprehensive riverbed evacuation plan which is fair and legally sustainable.”