If you’re looking for a reason to celebrate, here’s a great one: After a yearslong effort, next week there will be an official groundbreaking for a new homeless services center at 40 Prado Road in San Luis Obispo.
In just two years, the Homeless Foundation of San Luis Obispo County — the nonprofit group heading up the capital campaign to build the new shelter — has almost reached its fundraising goal of $5.4 million.
It needs just $250,000 to close the gap. Compared to what’s already been accomplished, that will be a piece of cake — with all our help.
Getting to this point has not been easy; a homeless campus was proposed for county-owned land on South Higuera Street at least seven years ago, but that plan was abandoned after business owners in the area complained it was not a good fit.
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A new site was found and those who fought the shelter at the former location got behind the 40 Prado Road site. They’ve been among its benefactors—along with many others in the community. Generous donors stepped up and contributed large amounts — as much as $250,000 each — during a quiet campaign that ended about one year ago.
At that point, the foundation made a more public push to raise the remaining $1.3 million.
What happened after that is amazing. Here are just a few of the efforts:
▪ Elementary school student Tara Preston raised $175 through a bake sale at her school.
▪ Three local college graduates, Sean Day, Tim Schoepp and Jack Bowen, cycled across the country from Oregon to Virginia, raising $4,228 from sponsors.
▪ The congregation at Mountainbrook Church raised $50,634. (Mission San Luis Obispo will conduct special collections to benefit 40 Prado in mid-November.)
▪ An Oregon family who used to lived in San Luis Obispo read about the campaign and sent in a check for $500.
▪ To mark Homeless Awareness Week, a group of students from Cal Poly and other local schools walked the 2.5 miles between Prado Day Center and Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter to show why there’s a need for a consolidated center.
On top of that, there have been fundraising concerts and barbecues, parties and art events hosted by local families. Businesses have opened their wallets, both with cash donations and offers of labor and materials for the new shelter, which will accommodate as many as 100 clients — 150 in rainy weather, when it will also operate as a warming center.
The shelter, which could be finished as early as October 2017, will replace both the dilapidated Maxine Lewis Shelter and the Prado Day Center. It will also take the place of the overflow shelters operated by local churches; church members will be invited to volunteer at the new shelter.
But first things first: The foundation needs that final $250,000.
A contribution of any size would be an excellent way to say thank you to the volunteers, led by Foundation President John Spatafore, for a job well-done.
It’s also an opportunity to address the issue of homelessness in our county in a constructive way, by providing clients not only with a roof and warm meals, but also with a place where they can get counseling, health care, job referrals and other services that will help in the transition to more permanent housing.
We fully recognize a congregate shelter is not going to solve the problem of homelessness. More and more, communities are embracing the policy of “housing first” — meaning the best way to end homelessness is to get people into permanent housing as quickly as possible. But we also have to face the reality that we live in a community where even two-income households earning decent wages can barely afford housing.
Ideally, we will someday live in a community where homeless shelters are no longer needed. We’re not there yet, which is why we believe a donation of any amount to the Homeless Foundation is a wise and compassionate investment.
Want to help?
To donate, go to www.40prado.org/donate-now. Or send donations to Homeless Foundation of SLO County, P.O. Box 1233, San Luis Obispo 93406..