Southside Road homeless shelter idea stirs debate

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Some of the tents and surroundings have become fairly intricate.

While receiving an update on the local homeless situation—including a census showing a staggering increase in the local population—some supervisors showed they continue leaning toward using a Southside Road location for a permanent shelter.
Supervisors heard an update from county staff officials, including Interim Health & Human Services Director James Rydingsword and Interim Public Works Director Joseph Horwedel.  
Rydingsword reported back on a January “point-in-time” census of the county’s homeless population and said there were 651 compared with 365 in a similar 2013 survey. He also mentioned how the county had installed debris beds and porta-potties at the makeshift homeless encampment along the river on the west side.
The item on the agenda was a broader discussion, but eventually became focused on the future location of a permanent homeless shelter, after the county received a $1.5 million federal block grant to go toward a facility. Some supervisors still prefer it at the old hospital location on Southside Road, a previously OK’d location near the current seasonal migrant center, despite objections from residents who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.
David Crandall, a resident who lives near the proposed site, told supervisors it’s a working-class neighborhood with many children. He said there are “tons of kids everywhere” and that a bus stop is right on the corner where the shelter would stand. He pointed to the heavy Latino population in the neighborhood and suggested the location choice was “racist.”
“I’m sorry but I don’t think it’s safe,” he said. “It’s literally in my back yard.”
Crandell asked why supervisors weren’t considering other locations such as a San Felipe Road site near other homeless services. Supervisor Margie Barrios responded that supervisors took a San Felipe Road site off the table due to concerns from the agriculture community there.
“Would this be built next to Ridgemark?” Crandell said.
Supervisor Anthony Botelho replied after the public comments—which came from two high school students and another woman as well—and said he “can’t disagree more” about Southside Road.
Botelho said the nearby Riverview Estates subdivision was a subsidized development.
“It was terrific,” he said. “Now we’re trying to help some individuals that have some issues and they’re homeless with a clean facility that is year round.”
He said the shelter would be a “controlled facility.”
“I just feel that it’s completely unfair to identify homeless people with people that are lawless,” Botelho said.
At Monday night’s Hollister council meeting, however, a representative from a business neighboring the homeless encampment along the river complained about “thefts” and “drug people” in recent months on his property.

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