Many homeless people were ousted from their encampments on the Bob Jones Trail after the City of San Luis Obispo temporarily closed the trail starting on Monday.

The popular bike trail will remain closed for eight weeks so city staff can reduce fire hazards and improve fencing along the trail, according to a news release.

“This brief closure is a temporary inconvenience that will benefit the community and users of the trail for years to come,” Greg Cruce, maintenance operations deputy director for the city’s Public Works Department said in the news release.

Throughout the 1.5-mile trail, city officials will cut down excess vegetation that could potentially lead to wildfires. The City also employed a contractor to replace the current split rail wood fencing with heavy timber fencing to protect the community from steep drop-offs and environmentally sensitive areas, according to the news release.

As city staff continue to work on the project, community members can take the detour along South Higuera Street and Los Osos Valley Road.

Becky Jorgeson is the founder and president of Hope’s Village, a non-profit organization that provides resources to homeless community members.

Jorgeson said the City is not doing enough to assist people experiencing homelessness.

“(Homeless people) have nowhere else legal to go. Police tell them that they can go to the Prado shelter, which is not true because the Prado shelter is full,” Jorgeson said, referring to the homelessness services center on 40 Prado Rd.

Mustang News reached out to 40 Prado for comment and has not received a response.

Architecture freshman Mia Angela Fiesta said she feels “disheartened” by the encampment sweeps.

“It’s sad to hear that so many people are being kicked out of there,” Fiesta said. “I want to use my college education to house those in need, like homeless and low-income people.”

The City uses a Community Action Team made up of a police officer and social worker to connect homeless individuals with local resources. John Klevins, a social worker on the team, said a week and a half before the trail’s closure, he stopped by the homeless encampments at least three times to encourage homeless people to seek help.

Out of the dozens of homeless people living along the trail, two people accepted Klevins’ offer. After talking to them about their options, Klevins said those two individuals eventually declined assistance.

“The city is not a villain,” Klevins said. “There’s a large community of people that want to use that recreational area that their taxes have paid for, but they can’t because they don’t feel safe.”

Police officers conduct a sweep of the homeless encampments along the Bob Jones Trail on Friday.
Becky Jorgeson | Courtesy

City homelessness response manager Kelsey Nocket said there could be multiple reasons for homeless community members turning down assistance. This includes a lack of trust between the homeless population and local law enforcement.

While this is not an ideal solution, Nocket said the clearing of homeless encampments is more about ensuring safety and sanitation for all community members.

“When you have a situation where there is no infrastructure for waste management, no facilities for proper food storage, rodent infestations and hazardous waste, including fecal matter, no one should be living in those conditions,” Nocket said.

Electrical engineering master’s student Alejandro Bupara said it’s important to remember the majority of people are two paychecks away from becoming homeless.

“It’s hard to see this as anything other than extermination of the unhoused population,” Bupara  said. “The City is displacing these people during an ongoing pandemic. They have blood on their hands.”

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