If you’ve followed this space with any regularity over the years, you know that the heartbreak of homelessness is never far from my thoughts. I’m not talking about those obviously healthy young adults who have chosen downtown panhandling as a lifestyle. Those people give a public, but false, face to those who suffer the humiliation of homelessness.
I’m talking about the mothers, fathers and children who have fallen through our increasingly tattered safety net — families that were living near the edge during the best of times and now find themselves living in cars, creeks or the time-worn Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter in San Luis Obispo, seeking meals at the Prado Day Center.
The latest countywide count of the homeless put the number close to 4,000, with 1,300 of those being children. There may be thousands more living invisibly. This is a collective societal disgrace.
If there’s any hope on the horizon, though, it’s embodied by groups like Coast Union High School’s Interact Club and its student members, who show an amazing amount of empathy at a time when many youngsters are focused on popularity rather than on a population in need.
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Interact’s mission, according to its president, Connor Cunningham, is: “We take a trip to the homeless shelter every year. It’s a wake-up call, a reality-check in our own backyard.”
Working with the Interfaith Coalition for the Homeless and the seasonal Needs ’N Wishes Holiday Fundraiser in Los Osos for the past two years, Interact places five-gallon water jugs at farmers markets, around school and in businesses around town and asks people to donate their spare change. They raised $1,391.13 last year.
For its part, Needs ’N Wishes is holding its fifth-annual fundraiser Saturday to support ongoing needs at Maxine Lewis, in addition to donating to a new homeless shelter/campus that’s being spearheaded by Community Action Partnership San Luis Obispo County, formerly the Equal Opportunity Commission.
The event, held at the South Bay Community Center in Los Osos from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., is a hoot on multiple levels.
While listening to live music, shopping for toys and bidding on donated items, you can eat free cookies and drink free hot cocoa. Want to bend a politician’s ear? All of the five members of the Board of Supervisors have donated “lunch with a supervisor,” as has San Luis Obispo City Councilman John Ashbaugh. There are some 400 items, including artwork, pottery, jewelry, dinners, hotel stays and greens fees that will be up for bid. Choirs, glee clubs and folk dancing keep a steady beat throughout the day. It’s a great way to spend some time shopping, eating, being entertained — and ALL of the money that’s raised goes to the Maxine Lewis Shelter. It’s a great family outing for an excellent cause.
Two things: the South Bay Community Center is located behind the Los Osos Skate Park on Palisades Avenue. And if you want to donate directly to the shelter, make checks out to Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter, P.O. Box 6721, Los Osos, CA 93412.
It’s a good thing. See you there.