San Luis Obispo to clear homeless encampments along Bob Jones Trail

Oct 16, 2020

The city of San Luis Obispo is clearing a homeless encampment along the Bob Jones Trail. This comes a week after SLOPD found the body of a man inside one of the tents, who they say died from unknown causes weeks earlier.

Adjacent to Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo, along the Bob Jones Trail, are several tents next to the creek. The city estimates more than 60 individuals are living there. Keith Dawyne is one of them. 

“In general homeless people get a bad rep," Dawyne said. "It feels like we are contagious, or that we are lazy. When we have to do the abnormal to get what we need.”

San Luis Obispo assistant city manager Shelly Stanwyck said the city will be clearing out the area because it’s unsafe and unhealthy for individuals to reside there. She also notes the city clears the area annually before winter rains.

“It doesn’t look like it but San Luis Creek, if we get a couple inches of rain, the creek can go up by feet," Stanwyck said. "Last year alone we had two swift water rescues due to one storm.”

Stanwyck said for the past two weeks, homeless service organizations and the police department’s Community Action Team have been informing those living along the trail about available services for food, mental health and housing. But Dawyne doesn't feels it's not enough, and isn’t sure where he’ll go next. 

“The bucket has been pushed on to everybody just to figure it out for ourselves," Dawyne said. "All they are doing is masking the problem.”

The city is urging those individuals experiencing homelessness to seek shelter at the Prado day center. But Becky Jogeson, founder of Hope SLO, an organization that helps provide housing, food and showers, said more needs to be done.

“We don’t have enough help," Jorgeson said. "We need a place for them to go, to be with showers and bathrooms and hand washing stations.”

Jorgeson is critical of the city's decision to clear the homeless encampment during the pandemic. 

“The [Centers for Disease Control] tells everyone in the country, ‘don’t put the homeless people out of their places because of the pandemic,’ and they are doing it anyway,” Jorgenson said.

City staff said the public works department will start clearing out the encampments Monday, and that cleanup will take several weeks.