After opposition in Grover Beach, homeless housing project finds site in Pismo Beach

Oct 1, 2019

Plans for more affordable, supportive housing in San Luis Obispo County are underway, and the project may signal an end to a south county skirmish over where to place shelter for the homeless. The nonprofit affordable housing developer Peoples' Self-Help Housing (PSHH) met with Pismo Beach officials in September to negotiate a possible location in the city. On Tuesday, the nonprofit announced it had gone into escrow on a new site.

The plan is to build 50 permanent, supportive housing units on North Fourth Street, just off Highway 101. Pismo Beach City Manager Jim Lewis praised the location at a September 17 city council meeting.

“We really believe this is a great site,” Lewis said. “It’s adjacent to transportation, groceries, the freeway. There aren’t surrounding neighborhoods adjacent...really it provides an opportunity for people.”

The location of this housing project—a collaboration between PSHH and the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition (5CHC)—has been a source of contention. The original spot was planned as a one-stop homeless advocacy center with office space, warming center and transitional and permanent housing at the site of Hillside Church in Grover Beach. But many in that neighborhood pushed back on the decision to place the center in a residential area. Then questions were raised over the legal ownership of the church property and the whole project stalled.

John Fowler is president and CEO of Peoples' Self-Help Housing.

“It doesn’t look like that’s going to get resolved any time soon,” Fowler told KCBX News. “We’ve waited kind of as long as we can, so unfortunately we’re going to be cancelling that escrow.”

Fowler said the organization bought the new property for $3 million dollars, of which $1.6 million came from California Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) grant money that was dolled out across the county by the board of supervisors earlier this year. PSHH and 5CHC shared the largest financial award, $2.6 million dollars, with the aim of increasing homeless services in south county. Last month, 5CHC announced they used the HEAP funding to buy a permanent office space in Grover Beach for $1 million. The new Pismo Beach location will use up the remainder of those state dollars.

“We still need to find a home for the warming center somewhere in the Five Cities area,” Fowler said.

Fowler said PSHH will be collaborating with 5CHC to include some transitional housing at the new Pismo Beach site. The organization aims to break ground on the project in late 2020, but Fowler said it may take more time, negotiations and a lot more money before move-in day arrives.