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ECHO receives approval to expand hours, occupancy 

ECHO shelter in need of voluteers

–The El Camino Homeless Organization has received approval to expand to a 24-hour, 7 day-a-week facility and add 10 additional beds. The approval came in a 5-0 vote last week from the Atascadero Planning Commission and 5-0 vote last night from the Atascadero City Council.

Currently the shelter is open nightly to the homeless population from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. and houses 50 people. The increase in hours will provide residents access to the organization’s resources during daytime hours. The additional beds will increase occupancy to 60 and provide more housing for families and the medically fragile homeless population.

The approval allows ECHO to add the expansion plans as Emergency Shelter Overlay Amendments to its existing agreement with the City of Atascadero. The proposed Amendments have been a work in progress by the Board of Directors and Executives of ECHO for the last two years and are a direct result of the increased number and needs of the homeless population of SLO County. The latest report published in June of this year showed San Luis Obispo County’s homeless count is up by 32-percent since its last census in 2017. An increase of 37-percent being homeless families. According to National statistics, the majority of homeless families are households headed by single women and families with children under the age of six. The largest increase has been experienced by homeless veterans at 78-percent since 2017.

“With this approval and the additional government funding and increased support from foundations, businesses and individual donors, ECHO will be able to assist more of the homeless population and provide services that are so desperately needed during daytime hours,” says Eric Gobler, Board Chair of ECHO, “Many residents find themselves in need of daytime services, particularly those with young children, those that work night shifts and seniors recovering from illness or surgery. We are very grateful to the Planning Commission, the City Council and our many supporters for making this expansion possible and allow us to continue with our mission to help those facing homelessness in our community.”

“ECHO is the only overnight and transitional shelter in the North County, directly addressing the need for housing for residents who are homeless,” says Wendy Lewis, President/CEO of ECHO, “With this approval we are able to offer additional homeless families and individuals more comprehensive case management and supportive services. We’ve seen the need to expand our hours for the last few years, the approval comes at an opportune time to expand. With the funding and the many programs added these last two years, we are ready to meet the needs of the community and help those facing homelessness get back on their feet. In fact last year over 60-percent of the people that entered our program found permanent housing.”

ECHO currently operates a safe and secure overnight 50-bed shelter to meet the immediate needs of families and individuals who have become homeless. With a unique residency program, clients are provided case management services to assist them in securing a job and finding permanent and sustainable housing within three months of entering the shelter program. While enrolled in the program, clients learn life skills for employment, budgeting, healthier habits and more. The goal and the result of this practical support is the empowerment of residents to move in a positive direction while assisting them in acquiring the skills and services they need to become self-sustaining, including secure housing.

A force of 1,500 community volunteers provide ancillary support to run the shelter program and the meal program that serves as many as 80 dinners each night to shelter residents and the homeless population. ECHO also operates a shower program that provides hot showers three nights a week to anyone in need. ECHO supplies the homeless population all the necessary toiletries and offers access to clothing, shoes, blankets, sleeping bags and school supplies for children.

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