City celebrates Rachelle Rickard’s career upon retirement after working 26 years for Atascadero
ATASCADERO — A recent homeless encampment that has been growing near the U.S. Highway 101 southbound offramp and Morro Road was addressed in the Tuesday, July 11, City Council meeting. Newly appointed City Manager Jim Lewis addressed the unhoused population and its encampment that has developed for a second time on the offramp.
At the start of the meeting, Mayor Heather Moreno read a Commendation in Recognition of Retiring City Manager Rachelle Rickard’s 26 Years of Dedicated Service to the City of Atascadero. Rickard served the city for 10 years as manager and as the city’s administrative services director for 16 years.
All City Council members, as well as Atascadero’s new City Manager Jim Lewis sang their praises of Rickard’s time not only working for the city but also for her time as city manager. Lewis was also at the meeting to give his first official Updates from the City Manager. At the end of his update, Lewis addressed the unhoused encampment.
“The last thing I’d like to share is I know many of you council members and in our office has been contained to your [the public’s] concern about the homeless encampment off of southbound 101,” he said. “I want to assure the council and community that staff is working to address that as promptly as possible. Cleanup will begin this week, and then as soon as the area is cleaned up, we will be looking to fence off the area adjacent to the Chevron Station as we repair the grounds.
“The vegetation and irrigation are in disrepair, so we’re looking at how we spruce up that gateway and that corridor and making sure the area is clean and secure. Remember, when we do these things, we always do approach it with compassion and services, as we hope to one day have longer-term housing. But we are focused on the area, and I hope you can assure residents as they contact you it’ll be a prime focus of our staff for the next few weeks to tidy that up.”
Almost a year to the day, city staff worked alongside the Atascadero Police Department (APD) and outreach programs to evacuate and clean up the same area.
And much like last year, residents have been talking about the encampment and unhoused population, in regards to the area, on Facebook threads in groups like Everything Atascadero for the last couple of months.
When Atascadero News reached out to Deputy City Manager Terrie Banish late last week, upon seeing the encampment was growing in size, she stated that the city was aware of the situation.
“The City’s Police Department does make regular contact with the unhoused individuals in known camps on a daily basis, including the area next to Chevron and the Highway 101/41 intersection,” stated Banish in her response email. “The Police Department has two teams (OUR Team and a Community Action Team) along with County Mental Health and Transitions Mental Health who also engage and interact with unhoused individuals regularly, providing various services, including mental health counseling and assistance.
“Red Cross, ECHO, and Social Services also provide outreach to these individuals to offer services and provide avenues for these individuals to move away from homelessness and into shelters and long-term housing. All of these organizations, as well as city staff, continue to connect with any individuals who frequent these areas and work to get them connected with services.”
To read Atascadero New’s article about the evacuation and clean up of the area in their July 13, 2022, article, follow this link: atascaderonews.com/news/law-enforcement-evacuates-encampment-along-us-101
The next Atascadero City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 6 p.m.