Homeless shelter hosts annual Long Walk Home fundraiser
ECHO, El Camino Homeless Organization, the non-profit homeless shelter serving north San Luis Obispo County, invites the community to participate in the third annual “Long Walk Home” fundraiser. The event will be held August 23, 9:30-11:30 a.m. at the shelter located at 6370 Atascadero Mall, Atascadero.
The event is supported by North County service groups, faith-based organizations, businesses and the public. “With everyone’s help, our goal is to raise $30,000 this year,” said fundraising volunteer Robin Smith. “More than two-thirds of ECHO’s operational budget comes from donations. We are a grassroots organization and we simply need the community’s help to continue providing shelter, meals and case management services to North County’s homeless individuals and families.”
The fun walk begins at ECHO, makes its way around the Atascadero Sunken Gardens, over the E.G. Lewis Bridge, and back to the homeless shelter. Or participants may choose to tour the shelter instead of walking the route. The registration fee includes lunch, raffle tickets, and root beer floats. Walkers can also collect donations and compete for prizes. The team (up to seven walkers) that collects the most donations wins dinner at Atascadero’s Guest House Grill. The individual walker who raises the most for ECHO wins an Apple iPad. “It’s a great activity for kids this summer,” added Smith. “Collect donations to help those less fortunate, and perhaps win an iPad just in time for back to school.”
“Long Walk Home” is $30 for adults, and children under 18 are free. Registration and donation collection forms can be downloaded at www.echoshelter.net. To have forms mailed, call Robin Smith at (805) 434-2236.
Since the first “LongWalk Home” in 2012, many changes have occurred at ECHO including the purchase of a permanent shelter building. “In 2014, we finished the renovations and grew from 31 to 50 beds. We are already operating at full capacity on many nights,” said Executive Director Bill Watt. “It is vital for the North County to have a place where homeless individuals and families can get the support they need to get back on their feet. Clients work with case managers to develop a plan to help them regain housing and their independence within 90 days. It is not easy, but many success stories show that it’s working.” From January through July of this year, ECHO helped 20 individuals get back into housing, 9 of those were children.
Richard Harden, 84, rented a home in San Miguel for 30 years. Recently, when the house changed ownership, the rent increased from $700 to $1300 a month. Richard, a Korean War veteran who relies on social security income, was unable to pay his rent. When he came to ECHO, his case manager, Eloisa Medina, began making inquiries. “Mr. Harden did not know what resources and services existed. If you don’t understand the system, it’s hard to connect the dots,” she said. “That’s what we do.” She was able to find another affordable rental in San Miguel. “Mr. Harden is home once again and doing well.”
In May, Oneida Ruiz, a single mother with two children, 7 and 14, became stranded in Atascadero. “I was living in Mt. Vernon, Washington, and just not able to make ends meet. When an old friend offered to rent us her extra room, I thought my problems were solved,” she said. However, soon after arriving in Atascadero, the living arrangement fell apart. “The next day, my children and I were homeless. I spent all my money to get here, and I couldn’t afford a motel room.” She heard about ECHO, but was reluctant. “I was scared. I thought a homeless shelter would be dangerous,” she said. “But it’s a good, safe place. I was surprised to see many people like me, women and children.”
While at ECHO, Oneida and her two boys shared a family room with a grandmother and her two grandchildren. “It’s not easy, but everyone tries to make it as nice as possible for the kids,” she said. Her son Brian, 7, had a small desk with art supplies by his bed, and received homework help from Cal Poly student tutors. After staying at ECHO for two months, Oneida was able to finalize living arrangements with relatives in San Diego. “I’m so thankful that ECHO was here, especially for my kids. The volunteers are kind, and the staff is really professional. If you are serious about solving your situation, the people at ECHO will help you find your way.
Founded in 2001, ECHO, El Camino Homeless Organization is a grassroots, volunteer-based nonprofit that provides meals, shelter, and onsite case management for homeless individuals and families. ECHO serves all of north San Luis Obispo County. To donate or learn more about ECHO, El Camino Homeless Organization call (805) 462-3663.