SAN LUIS OBISPO (AP) — A Central Coast rancher and local hero to the homeless vowed to finally to build the Sunny Acres sober living facility after more than a decade in court and conflicts.
Dan De Vaul, 69, has reached a settlement with the county after years of debate, evictions and code enforcement action prevented him from building the facility on his 72-acre property, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported.
After the settlement is approved by a judge, De Vaul says he will build a shelter to house up to 50 homeless people, addicts and the mentally ill.
After De Vaul raises an undisclosed sum to get the facility built and operating, clients will work on the ranch, farm and sell produce while being connected with counseling and other mental health services.
“I had my bouts with drugs and alcohol. This is what makes me feel good. We are creating something . fabricating a program . that is going to help people,” De Vaul told the Tribune.
Since 2001, the site has attracted controversy by housing people living in sheds, tents and a dairy barn. A judge declared the ranch a public nuisance in 2010.
De Vaul was convicted of building safety and vehicle storage violations and also fined $1,000. He was sent to jail in 2009 after he refused the terms of his probation. Supporters wept in the courtroom as he was led away in cuffs.
The property was controlled by a court-appointed receivership until April.
Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall appointed a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo team to help De Vaul bring his property up to code. Improvement of electrical systems, plumbing and the removal of 122 tons of scrap was completed in June.
De Vaul also had to ensure no one would live in illegal facilities and residents were provided with safe drinking water.
Jess Macias, 49, has lived at Sunny Acres for 10 years and now helps run the program.
“The feeling of having a home and not worrying about where you will be living and sleeping gives you the ability to grow and succeed,” Macias told the newspaper. “With hope you can do anything. When there is no hope, everything else gets buried with it.”