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Letters: Black History Month open letters to congress continued 

letter to the editor

Open letter to representatives Jimmy Panetta and Salud Carbajal regarding housing and homelessness:

– Federal disinvestment in housing production over a sustained period has contributed significantly to the twin crises in housing and homelessness that we face in SLO County. The scope and depth of these problems merit federal action both to increase the kinds of housing that the market is failing to supply and to support housing access integrated with services when needed for those who get left out, such as working people with modest wages, seniors, people with disabilities, and individuals with serious mental illness or addiction.

From the legislation you have each introduced, we know your recognize the importance of these issues. Here are some of our most urgent requests:

Housing supply steps:

1. Expand project-based vouchers. These vouchers expand housing capacity permanently. They guarantee an income-based subsidy for tenants in a unit over a long time period, so that developers can afford to build these units. This type of voucher has been used to excellent effect in adding housing to accommodate formerly homeless veterans, resulting in cutting the number of homeless vets in SLO County from 300 to less than 20. Let’s do this for others, too.

2. Expand federal tax credit financing for low income projects, as Congressman Panetta has proposed, and make sure that high-cost housing markets have ready access to these funds. There are well-supported, shovel-ready affordable housing projects in this County that have languished for years while seeking tax credit financing, and long delays add to the cost.

3. Expand availability of housing vouchers that bridge the gap between incomes and rents.

4. Expand supports for adding workforce and farm worker housing.

5. Continue the commitment to ending veteran homelessness.

Services that keep people housed and functioning:

6. Streamline and expand funding for homeless services.

7. Ensure ongoing support for the Medicaid waiver that supports CalAIM, which lets Medicaid health plans pay for various housing supports as medical interventions for unhoused or recently re-housed people. This offers more secure funding for ongoing needs, and lets plans find ways to reduce total costs to the taxpayer while providing better care.

8. Support expanded funding for addiction recovery, and streamline approvals and access to treatment for people who have both addiction and mental health issues.

9. Make it possible for seniors and people with disabilities who are unhoused or at risk of homelessness to get Assisted Living care without leaving the area (e.g. expand the existing waiver to include SLO County).

10. Make organized safe parking programs eligible for homeless services grant funding, as Congressman Carbajal has proposed, so that services can be provided to make sure these programs succeed.

Contributor: Susan Funk, SLO County Homeless Services Oversight Council

Topic: The unhoused/homeless

We are in a homeless crisis, and we need to look at contributing factors:

When the government attempts a census of the unhoused, there are cities that employ sweeps of the unhoused and/or use a heavy police presence thus ensuring we will not get the data that is needed. Congress needs to do something about this practice. Changes need to be made regarding who is counted, i.e. unhoused individuals in jails, and severe penalties need to be imposed on those who try to intimidate or prevent the unhoused from participating.

I don’t see adequate funding for the programs that are truly needed. And some officials don’t appear to care about the dispersal of traumatized, unhoused individuals into neighborhoods. The public often complains that “The unhoused don’t want services, they just want to do drugs.”

In San Luis Obispo County there are currently 16 male rehab beds that take CenCal Health. The shelters are full and their programs are underfunded. The data will show that the 90 day programs that some shelters use are not as successful as the public is being told. Most individuals end up back on the streets after 90 days because of a lack of affordable housing.

As a former homeless person, I have experienced or observed these problems. We need all hands on deck and support from the government or this crisis will affect generations to come.

Contributor: Brenda Mack, NAACP San Luis Obispo County Branch


Treatise topic: environment, climate justice

The Environmental and Climate Justice Committee of the NAACP SLO Branch shall:

• Seek to address environmental inequities at the local level and advocate for civil rights issues.
• Develop a comprehensive and holistic agenda to reduce pollution.
• Advance energy efficiency and clean energy.
• Build disaster-resilient infrastructure policies and practices.

We are asking community leaders and representatives to address environmental and climate injustice by:

• Addressing unsustainable development patterns that increase the exposure to climate hazards and pollution to ecosystems and people.

The Dana Reserve Project will negatively impact the whole Nipomo Community. The Environmental Impact Report identified nineteen unmitigable and significant issues. The project impacts air quality, increases greenhouse gas emissions, and destroys special habitats, through the removal of 3,948 mature oak trees, and federally endangered species. It does not address issues of affordable housing. A few multifamily units will be built within the commercial area and five hundred feet of the 101 Freeway. Community concerns are being ignored as this development project is being framed to increase housing.

• Seeking meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. This includes listening and acknowledging community concerns.

• Halt and reverse deforestation, reduce methane emissions, and speed up the process of switching to electric vehicles. This requires the support and increase the infrastructure and cost to switch to electric vehicles.

• To set aggressive targets to transition the economy away from fossil fuels, in alignment with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s designated pathway to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, keeping global warming below the 1.5 C preferred limits of the Paris Agreement, and end all new fossil fuel exploration and extraction immediately.
• Oppose false geo-technologies like carbon capture sequestration and
• To ensure a just transition for communities and workers to a carbon free economy.

Contributor: Denise Yaffe, NAACP SLO Environmental Justice Chair


Editor’s note: Opinion pieces and letters to the editor are the personal opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paso Robles Daily News or its staff. We welcome letters from local residents regarding relevant local topics. To submit one, click here.


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