The City of San Luis Obispo allocated $30,000 in grant funding for professional homeless outreach workers. The outreach workers will provide 20 hours of weekly service in downtown San Luis Obispo. The program is a partnership between Downtown SLO and CAPSLO, according to a press release sent out on Nov. 9. 

The Downtown SLO Association, which is best known for events like Thursday Night Farmers’ Market and Concerts in the Plaza, works closely with its member businesses to assess the needs of customers and visitors of downtown.

“Since the shutdown in March the issue [of homelessness] has become more prevalent,” Bettina Swigger, CEO of Downtown SLO, wrote in the press release. “If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that we must work together.”

Looking to partner with other San Luis Obispo organizations, Swigger founded the Community Action Partnership of SLO (CAPSLO), SLO’s federally designated community action agency. Swigger and CAPSLO Deputy Director Grace McIntosh serve on the County’s Homeless Services Oversight Council together.

“There’s a homelessness crisis in the state of California,” Swigger said. “We want to do something in our downtown to provide help to those people and do it in a way that is meaningful.”

Homelessness in California has increased by 22% in the last decade and 16% between 2018 and 2019 alone, according to the Homeless Policy Research Institute. 

Through a people-centric approach, the professional outreach workers will address people’s individual needs and connect them to the right resources. Through this outreach approach, Downtown SLO and CAPSLO intend to bridge the gap between those experiencing homelessness and their support system, eventually connecting them with permanent housing. 

The funding will also provide job training for individuals who are experiencing homelessness, which is part of a new social enterprise program that is set to launch at the beginning of 2021. 

CAPSLO’s goal is to provide support to individuals experiencing homelessness and their families, according to CAPSLO’s Deputy Director Grace McIntosh.

“Our outreach workers not only help individuals connect to services, but they stay with them through the process to ensure success,” McIntosh wrote in the press release. 

Editor’s Note: The City of San Luis Obispo’s total one-year grant to Downtown SLO includes a 50% matching grant challenge of $28,750. If individuals or corporations are interested in making tax-deductible donations to support this program, they may be made through the Friends of Downtown SLO, a 501c3 charitable non-profit.

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