Doors are wide open at the Disaster Recovery Center and Local Assistance Center located at the San Luis Obispo Veterans Memorial Building.
“Everyone is welcome. You do not need documentation to enter the center,” assured Rachel Dion, San Luis Obispo County Emergency Services Coordinator
Asking for help is already hard for people who were displaced because of flooding, but for families who are undocumented, there is a constant fear to request resources.
“We’re not even going to ask because we don’t care,” said Dr. Leola Dublin Macmillan, United Way of SLO County Director of Resource Development and Equity Initiatives. “We’re here to help our neighbors in need, recover and get back on their feet as soon as possible. ”
Federal and county officials want to make sure the community knows that the Disaster Recovery Center and Local Assistance Center in San Luis Obispo is a safe place regardless of a person’s immigration status.
“We offer mental health counseling, we also have a Spanish-speaking staff here, so if you’re a Spanish speaker, we have staff that can assist you in that way as well,” said Dion. “If you need mental health counseling or if you want to work with DSS to connect you to programs like Cal Fresh or any other services, they are here to help as well.”
According to USC’s California Immigrant Data Portal, in 2019 there were more than 7,700 undocumented immigrants living in San Luis Obispo County.
“Not only do we see that a lot of our undocumented folks are displaced, but the reality is those are the people that are the invisible backbone of our local economy,” said Dr. Dublin Macmillan. “When fields flood, the people who are in those fields working, they don’t have work [..]people are displaced. No safety net, undocumented and don’t have work.”
Families with mixed immigration status are eligible for resources through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“If you have a child that was born in the States and have a Social Security number, you can apply that way,” explained Renee Bafalis, FEMA Media Relations Specialist. “If there is an adult in the household that has a legal status in the country that is living in the house that was damaged, you can apply that way as well.”
FEMA assures the public that the agency does not turn your information over to other federal agencies.
“We make sure that whatever information you have is private information,” added Bafalis.
There are other options for undocumented people who don’t qualify for FEMA assistance. Non-profits such as United Way of San Luis Obispo County are also on site to provide extra help.
“We’re working in partnership with CAL FIRE. We are giving out cash assistance to folks who have been impacted. Salvation Army is here, [they] do not care about documentation status at all,” said Dr. Dublin Macmillan. “They have gas cards available for folks, they have gift cards available for both Walmart and Home Depot. Red Cross is here. They have cleanup kits for people.”
The site at 801 Grand Ave. in San Luis Obispo is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Information is available in Spanish, Braille, and American Sign Language as well.
If you need transportation to get to the Disaster Recovery Center and Local Assistance Center, you can call the SLO County Office of Emergency Services at (805) 781-5678.