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County aims to reduce homelessness by 50 percent in five years 

San Luis Obispo County is trying to stem the ever-growing homelessness problem with a recently released plan.

On June 21, officials unveiled the SLO Countywide Plan to Address Homelessness. The five-year plan aims to cut homelessness in half by 2027, and it comes four years after the the plan to "end homelessness" expired.

click to enlarge FRESH PLAN The San Luis Obispo Countywide Plan to Address Homelessness hopes to increase prevention capacity, build interim housing, and boost data collection. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • FRESH PLAN The San Luis Obispo Countywide Plan to Address Homelessness hopes to increase prevention capacity, build interim housing, and boost data collection.

"I'm aware this has been in discussion for a while. We convened a meeting with city managers. I've been told that over time, they realized that there were a lot of different local efforts. Different cities doing different pieces of things, and the county was doing a lot. But they were not coordinating necessarily," Laurel Weir, the county coordinator for homeless services, said.

Through a regional partnership between county and cities, the plan targets homelessness through housing opportunities and shelter options, housing stability, data management efforts, streamlined funding, and public engagement. The county's taking public comment until June 30. The final version of the draft plan will be presented to the Homeless Services Oversight Council on July 18, and then to the Board of Supervisors in August. Staff will also release the delayed 2022 Point-In-Time Count in July, which will offer some clarity on the extent of homelessness in SLO County.

Kelsey Nocket, SLO's homelessness response manager, introduced a method during the June 21 City Council meeting to track trends in homelessness that the plan will rely on.

"I've been working with staff in our tech and GIS teams to develop a new data collection app that will streamline outreach efforts and communication between multiple departments that have direct interaction with our unhoused community members," Nocket said.

Joe Dzvonik, SLO County's principal homeless analyst, told New Times that investing in data is crucial for the homelessness reduction plan. He said the county has to update its data system to match the rising rates of homelessness.

"Some people may say, 'How much data do we really need? Look outside your window and you'll see homeless individuals,'" he said. "The efforts to step up data for some people may seem a waste of money. They could say, 'you could spend that money on housing.' But we're looking at the long-term capability to understand a phenomenon that occurs and be better prepared to address it, and maybe, even better prepared to prevent it."

He added that the countywide effort would utilize existing pots of money. Weir is also looking to apply for a Homeless Housing Assistance and Prevention Grant worth roughly $4 million, with allocations for different arenas like helping homeless youth and systems improvement.

Dzvonik mentioned that one of the first orders of business would be trying to set up non-congregate shelters like tiny villages. But inflation and the ongoing recession could diminish the value of existing dollars needed to fund those efforts.

"If inflation continues, the money that we spend to create shelters and housing is obviously going to be worth less. We can do less with the same amount of money. By default, it's going to cost more to do the same thing, compared to a year ago," he said. Δ

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