Homeless shelter volunteers speak to Rotary club
“The people who stay at ECHO every night don’t fit the stereotype of homeless… We see lots of families,” says Robin Smith, ECHO volunteer and spokeswoman. She recently spoke to the Paso Robles Rotary about ECHO, the El Camino Homeless Organization, north county’s homeless shelter.
ECHO began 30 years ago in Atascadero with 30 cots that were moved to various churches on a rotating basis, Smith says. After several years, the First Baptist Church in Atascadero offered permanent space in their church building that would allow for feeding and housing 30 homeless people. A year ago, First Baptist offered to sell the entire facility to ECHO.
With many generous donations, including one from the Paso Robles Rotary, ECHO purchased the building and began a renovation project to increase capacity from 30 beds to 50, to increase services to clients, and to have permanent offices for staff and volunteers. The remodeled facility better houses families and individuals who stay in the facility, making for a more comfortable environment for all. In addition, safety and security improvements were made, a covered patio was installed, and facilities were made fully ADA compliant. Many organizations and churches prepare, deliver, and provide meals each evening at ECHO, not only for those staying at ECHO, but also for anyone who needs a good meal.
Who are the homeless? Working poor who have jobs, but don’t make enough to have a place to live, veterans, and elderly make up most of the clients. When they become homeless, ECHO provides a place for them to decompress from the stress and, working with case managers, develop a plan to find housing. The ECHO case managers develop a work plan for each family or individual to find work if needed, find housing, and find needed services. ECHO is temporary housing with usual stays of 3 months or less. ECHO is drug free, requires proper behavior, and active pursuit of their work plan to achieve success. While ECHO provides the plan for success, the clients do the work to achieve that success.
ECHO receives some public grants and has various donation plans for individuals and organizations. $50 for 5 Years is a pledge program and Long Walk Home is the major annual fundraiser scheduled for Aug 23 in Atascadero. www.echoshelter.net