Mayors petition for homelessness center at former Paso Robles youth facility
Closed facility costs $730,000 a year to maintain according to Department of Corrections
–The North County mayors have signed a letter to the State of California expressing interest in re-purposing former El Paso de Robles Youth Correctional Facility as a Beyond Homelessness Campus. The effort is lead by Paso Robles City Mayor Steve Martin who intends to deliver the letter to Sacramento in June.
The facility on Airport Road has been closed since July 31, 2008 and includes a medical facility, classrooms and food service area. Opened in 1947 the property was originally purchased for $8,000 and included a 40-barrack army and air base and 200 acres of land, at its peak it housed 1,000 young inmates. In 2013 the facility was proposed as a re-entry facility however the project stalled due to lack of funding.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Information Officer Bill Sessa said the facility costs approximately $730,000 a year to maintain including gardening, general maintenance, management of plumbing system and salary of one employee. “We have an obligation to maintain the property so it is in suitable condition to reopen and use for a different purpose or in a useable condition to resell,” he said. He said the department had not announced any plans for future use of the facility.
Martin said the letter to the state was just one of inquiry at this stage to find out what is going on with the facility, what the plans are and if there are no plans is there interest in putting a Beyond Homelessness Campus in place to help those people in need. He said he is tentatively scheduled to deliver the letter in June and would further discuss the full costs of maintaining the facility in its current form.
He said the letter had been prompted by a concern in the county for those who are struggling to rebound from economic set-backs as well as those whose serious physical and mental challenges cripple their efforts to be self-sustaining. The letter proposes the existing buildings could be modified for emergency shelters and empty acreage could be used for clean transitional housing. “I will personally deliver the letter to Senator William Monning and Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian in Sacremento,” he said.
Atascadero City Mayor Tom O’Malley said North County mayors were concerned for the homeless population. “We are continuing to take the lead in the North County, Mayor Martin’s initiative to bring the abandoned State property in Paso Robles back into service is an excellent suggestion…This will allow us to expand the range of options to our homeless population so that they have basic access to services in order to succeed in everyday life,” he said. “I, and I believe other mayors in our county will support this effort in any way that we can…We look forward to working with the state and the county to collaborate on facilitating the use of this property that has yet to find a new purpose.”
At the Paso Robles City Council Meeting Tuesday, Apr. 5, councilmembers voted to receive and file the Letter to State. Councilmembers also voted unanimously to form a North County Homeless Coalition, with the aim of working with community representatives to discuss potential long-term solutions for homelessness.