A Motel 6 in Paso Robles will be converted to provide over a hundred rooms for emergency and permanent housing for homeless individuals, a project expected to be complete by the end of this year.
The Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo (HASLO) was granted $15 million for the hotel transformation as part of Governor Gavin Newsom's project Homekey, which converts hotels, motels and other properties into housing services for homeless throughout the state.
Three organizations are coming together to work on the project; People’s Self Help Housing (PSHH), HASLO, and El Camino Homeless Organization, also known as ECHO.
Technically, HASLO has been awarded the full grant since it is the entity that applied for it, so HASLO will have a direct hold over the funds. However, the application included the city of Paso Robles and the two other organizations as there was already a plan in the works to buy the Motel 6 property, but full funding was unavailable.
Now, People’s Self Help Housing is acting as a property manager and deciding how the funds should be spent, working on the numbers side of the project and what everything will cost to convert and operate.
The city of Paso Robles will also be involved in the project, but will not be directing where the funds go.
“This is a ray of hope for the community," HASLO CEO Scott Smith said. "This is a gift to the community at absolutely zero cost to local residents.”
Smith said homeless numbers in the county have increased by 32 percent since 2017, with more than 1,400 hundred people living on the streets and in creek beds. With the pandemic, those numbers are expected to go up.
“I don't know if this is going to solve that entire problem," Smith said. "But it certainly provides a part of a solution, where there is now place for people to go.”
Wendy Lewis, CEO of ECHO, said of the motel's 122 rooms, 63 of the units will be converted with kitchenettes for permanent housing, and 59 units will be for emergency shelter.
The rooms are expected to be open to people in December, a crucial time—Lewis said—when people need shelter the most.
“They are out in the cold, they are not in the safest conditions especially with COVID," Lewis said. "So I see it as a humanitarian response to people who really need shelter and ultimately need resources to help them get housed.”
Ken Trigueiro of People’s Self Help Housing said services will be a big part of this, in helping people transition out of homelessness and into sustainable living situations.
“Trying to figure out what brought them to the point they were homeless," Trigueiro said. "What are those issues and how can we help mitigate those?”
Trigueiro said for those skeptical or critical of the project, he points two hotels in Santa Barbara and Ventura his organization helped convert over ten years ago into homeless services. He said both are still operating with positive results.
"There’s not a whole lot of calls from police or medical, there’s been a decrease in those service calls," Trigueiro said. "So I think pointing to good examples is what people need to know so they can understand what exactly it is we are proposing.”
Editor's note: this story has been updated to clarify the grant receipient.