Aurora William found her small-town home in the North County — now, she’s helping Atascadero’s homeless population find theirs, too.
William took over as executive director of the El Camino Homeless Organization, also known as ECHO, a little more than a year ago. She’s helping pioneer homeless services in the North County, where ECHO operates as the region’s only shelter.
“It is an absolute gem of the community,” William said.
William, a single mother of four children, first moved to the area from Ventura County in 2004 in search of a smaller community for her family. She initially worked in the admitting department at Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton, but she lacked a way to “fill (her) soul with passion.”
She found her calling at ECHO, which started out in 2001 as a floating shelter that moved from church to church in Atascadero. The organization eventually found a permanent home at Atascadero First Baptist Church, 6370 Atascadero Ave., which it bought in 2013.
Today, the shelter has 50 beds and helps homeless families and individuals transition out of homelessness with 90-day stays and help from caseworkers. ECHO also serves dinner every night and provides showers and hygiene products three nights per week.
The organization operates with help from a small staff and lots of volunteers.
“It’s one of the most humbling organizations and one of the most humble organizations I’ve ever seen,” William said.
Since William took over, ECHO has continued to grow, recently forming a four-year, $500,000 partnership with Must! Charities in Templeton to address homelessness issues.
“It has been a challenge,” William said of her time as executive director. “It’s a good challenge, but it’s a challenge.”