About the Colony

With self-help housing project, local families will soon have a home for the holidays

Development of self-help homes, where homeowners help in the construction, is nearing completion on the corner of Andres and Atascadero avenues.
Development of self-help homes, where homeowners help in the construction, is nearing completion on the corner of Andres and Atascadero avenues. jrobillard@thetribunenews.com

With all the horrible news surfacing each day from around the world, I’ve been in a frantic search to see something for real that warms my heart.

The good news has come in small doses.

The first was watching young children encountering Santa Claus during a local service club’s “pancakes with Santa” event last weekend. I had almost forgotten that there are still children who believe in Santa and anxious to see and talk to him. Like many of you, my children are grown and their own children no longer believe in Santa.

Later in the week, I was taking my turn as a docent in the Atascadero Historical Society’s museum when a young man wearing what appeared to be a very heavy backpack walked in out of the cold. I could tell he was homeless. As he moved around the museum looking at the many photographs, it became obvious he grew up here. We got to talking and I mentioned how cold it has been the past few days.

“You can’t imagine what it’s like not having a warm place to sleep,” he said.

He is absolutely right. I can’t.

I look out my bedroom window in the morning and watch people leaving the ECHO shelter, which is just over my fence. Where do those mothers pushing strollers loaded with tiny tots spend their day? Thank goodness there has been a local movement to provide at least nighttime shelter and a hot meal for a small segment of our homeless population. The young man I met at the museum was walking toward the center below the high school. I hope he found refuge there.

On my way home from a meeting three nights ago, my route took me past the Peoples’ Self-Help Housing project under construction on a small triangle of land behind the Circle K just off Morro Road. About a dozen or so homes are nearing completion. Much of the construction work on these homes is being done by those who will inhabit them. I’ve been a longtime fan of the program.

Because it was already dark, I didn’t pay much attention until I drove past one home in the project. What I saw remains firmly fixed in my mind and my heart. I saw a light on in a garage. I saw sawhorses and what looked like sheetrock on them. Somebody was just lifting up a piece to carry it inside. I’m not sure how big it was. I haven’t paid much attention to whether all the homes are buttoned up with drywall or not. I know they have roofs and exterior siding.

I just know I saw one family putting in the extra time to get their home closer to that finished mark. I don’t think there is any heat for those homes yet, but it looked warm in that garage.

That quick view of one family building its way to homeownership was more than enough to make it a Merry Christmas for me.

Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 805-466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.