A new homeless encampment — one that sits comfortably away from environmentally sensitive habitat while also providing amenities such as portable toilets, showers and trash cans — is currently in the works in Half Moon Bay.
A housing collaborative headed by Abundant Grace Executive Director Eric DeBode has been in conversation with Our Lady of the Catholic Church about the possibility of hosting a one-year pilot program that would provide 15 to 20 homeless individuals with a safe place to stay.
The camp would be situated on roughly half an acre of land that sits behind the Shoreline Station parking lot and adjacent to the church.
Tents would be provided for the campers, and staff would be present on a constant basis. An on-site trailer would provide space for overnight staff after the sun goes down and meeting space during the day. An overnight security guard would also be present at the facility.
Those involved in the project initially declined to say where the camp might be held, saying they wanted to develop the plans before releasing them to the public. That information leaked, however, following a May 29 meeting between members of the collaborative and people involved with the church, including the pastor, Rev. Jose Corral.
“Everybody in that meeting (had) concerns and fears and also a lot of compassion and support,” said DeBode. “All of us have fears and concerns, but our hearts do go out to those who are struggling.”
Since that meeting, DeBode says he has heard concerns from people who have heard about the project without the full context. He said he had a good conversation from a Cunha Intermediate School parent who was uneasy about the close proximity of the camp to the school.
Given that Half Moon Bay is such a small town, DeBode says any location would likely have an impact on children and neighborhoods. DeBode himself is a father of a Cunha student and he says he understands the anxiety. Ultimately, however, it’s about helping the neighbors, he says.
“What we’re really trying to do is provide a safe place to sleep around services … so people are housing ready within a year,” DeBode said.
“If anybody has a better site, I’m happy to talk about it,” DeBode said. “We’ve looked at a lot of properties (and) it’s a very difficult proposal to make.”
The cost for the one-year project is about $300,000. Under this proposal funding would be shared between the city and county.
Neighboring businesses told the Review they had concerns, but most declined to speak on the record about them.
Josh Simpson, owner of the Jungletraders store on Main Street, says he has concerns about the site’s location, which is close to the Pilarcitos Creek. Since drug use likely wouldn’t be tolerated at camp, Simpson is concerned that the population would venture to the neighboring creek.
“Every time these people want to revert to destructive behavior, all you have to do is walk down the street,” Simpson said.
Simpson has personally been affected by the homeless population as he says people have camped out on the land he owns at the southeast corner of Highway 1 and Highway 92.
Simpson says he has pulled out bags of trash and gasoline from his property as a result. He also received notices that he is in violation of city code because of the campers, but his hands are tied because, he says, doing anything about it would be a violation of the code as well.
Shoreline Station property manager Marcus Wood said he was not a fan of the collaborative’s idea of bringing a single access point through the parking lot there.
“I don’t look at it as a positive for Shoreline Station to be the new travel path,” Wood said in a voice message to the Review.
The collaborative argues that the homeless already have a presence at Shoreline Station and use many services there including Centro de Libertad and the temporary library location.
“It shouldn’t impact any neighborhoods at all,” said Half Moon Bay mayor and collaborative member Debbie Penrose.
“These are our neighbors,” she continued. “These are our citizens and you take care of your own.”
The collaborative is still in the process of looking at a more permanent location to house the homeless after the one-year pilot.