Letters to the Editor

Helping Sunny Acres aid the county’s homeless

Dan De Vaul plans to build the Sunny Acres sober-living facility on his 72-acre ranch on Los Osos Valley Road on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo.
Dan De Vaul plans to build the Sunny Acres sober-living facility on his 72-acre ranch on Los Osos Valley Road on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

San Luis Obispo County residents include a homeless population well in excess of 2,000 people, according to recent articles in The Tribune. Another report claims 90 percent of our homeless have no shelter.

A variety of programs and facilities work mightily to keep up with this ever-present and everg-rowing failing of our society. One unique facility offers a residential and job-training program for those committed to sober living — Sunny Acres. It has never counted on public money, or even campaigned for private funds, but it has provided service to 20 to 30 persons, day in and day out, for 20 years.

After years of managing in Dan DeVaul’s family home, Sunny Acres could now use some help from you to finish a new building that is nearing completion so that it can move its program forward.

For many years, DeVaul shouldered his public service himself, investing tens of thousands of his personal funds into recovery for others. I have known him many times to go out in the middle of the night to the County Jail, mental illness holding centers or even into the “crick” to rescue those souls society has given up on.

When Dan’s manner of dealing with bureaucracy got him in deep trouble and threatened the existence of his program, a few other dedicated citizens worked with county officials to remake Sunny Acres. The nonprofit leased the entire 70-acre property from Dan DeVaul, reconstituted the board of directors without Dan so he could focus on day-to-day mentoring.

The result is now a cooperative effort, supported by the Board of Supervisors, including members Bruce Gibson, Adam Hill and Debbie Arnold, all of whom attended the groundbreaking ceremony this year for Sunny Acres’ new 14-bedroom house. Other county officials and staff members also are working with Sunny Acres to bring a fully codecompliant facility online.

We applaud the efforts of so many to build and maintain homeless shelters, food banks, soup kitchens and other social services for our least endowed. Each effort struggles to get the most from scarce resources. Some of these efforts required millions of dollars. At Sunny Acres we have completed the framing of our new home with a total investment thus far of $70,000. The rest has been donated in kind.

We need at least another $100,000 for fixtures and interior building materials. No funds are spent on staff and the program is self-sufficient, so all donations can and will be spent on the new facility. The smallest of investments can generate huge rewards. Congratulations to Dan and the county for working this out, saving taxpayers countless dollars and selflessly pursuing the moral obligation not to give up on our least fortunate.

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