Homelessness high on council agenda after riverbed evacuation
Council to establish North County Homeless Coalition
–At Tuesday’s Paso Robles City Council meeting, the council unanimously moved to form a North County Homeless Coalition, with the aim of working with community representatives to discuss potential long-term solutions for homelessness.
Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin said homelessness is a regional problem and it is important to work in a collaborative way to deal with the issue. The council directed city staff to form a structure for the coalition as soon as possible and bring a report back to council.
Assistant City Manager Meg Williamson said the coalition is a longer term example of what needs to take place, “the aim will be to continue dialogue and keep the conversation alive, get the right people in the room and speak in a more focused voice for the North County,” she said. “The initial evacuation was a success at least towards its primary goals, ensuring prevention of loss of life, however the next stage will be tougher but shows our dedication to working towards a solution.”
“We applaud our community partners who stepped in like Paso Cares, and thank other faith-based groups that didn’t in the end need to be utilized,” Williamson said.
Paso Cares had resources in place to address the increased need over the weekend of Mar. 12 and overflow was not an issue. The 18 bed shelter was open for 43 nights during its winter operations Dec. 10 to Mar. 14.
Paso Cares President Cherie Michaelson said the evacuation was successful, it was important the homeless got out of the riverbed before the storms, but it was unfortunate not everyone wanted to take advantage of the warming stations. “It is important we now work towards a long-term solution,” she said.
During the riverbed evacuation the Paso Robles Police Department documented approximately 40 field interviews, issued 15 citations and made 14 arrests. Some contacts were arrested based on outstanding warrants. The police continue to monitor the riverbed doing random spot checks.
“The police department has recently made contact with six individuals who have returned to the riverbed and found two new sites in the Highway 46 East section of the river,” Williamson said. “We are continuing to go back and touch base along the river corridor as there is evidence of additional debris turning up and we continue to encourage that it is not a place to live.”
Paso Robles Police Lieutenant Ty Lewis said the project was still ongoing, not as intensely as when the rain was coming, but officers are still patrolling to ensure the homeless don’t set up residence in the riverbed again. In regards to a North County Homeless Coalition, he said the police always want to come to the table about issues of public safety where we can provide value we are happy to be involved.
Williamson said that the city plans to provide further resources to cleanup debris in the area as it is both a safety issue as well as public health.
After the evacuation approximately 30 occupied camps were removed and up to 20 trash sites totaling 20 tons of material which filled six 40-yard bins. The clean up was undertaken by a 15 person work crew over a two-week period.
A 40-foot storage container was placed on city property to store personal belongings for a minimum of 90 days. A small amount of property and personal belongings has been logged and stored.
Of the $69,000 council allocated to the evacuation project $41,300 was used with the remaining $27,700 to be used for further targeted cleanup, storage costs and management of property and any overtime costs related to increased police resources in the riverbed to sustain the no camping status.