Opinion Columns & Blogs

Something of a miracle on Prado Road

Without question we’ve had a cold winter so far, and it’s in that light that I can’t help but wonder and worry about those who are going without in our community — homeless mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children. The down-and-outs, the mentally ill, the foreclosed upon whose defense against the elements may only be a bridge over their heads or brush along our creeks.

There are refuges for these unfortunates: Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter, ECHO, churches that take monthly turns giving nightly beds to some of the 4,000 homeless individuals in our county.

These efforts are wonderful examples of empathetic individuals and groups that are simply trying to hold the line against a misery index that most of us, hopefully, will never know.

A key player in easing that suffering is the Prado Day Center. Prado is the only day center in the county, the only place where the homeless and dispossessed can go during the day and get two hot meals, wash their clothes, take a shower, use a phone, store their clothes while either looking for a job or toiling in the ranks of the working poor.

It’s a safe haven for the 30 percent of the center’s participants who are children, who have a room and yard in which to play; it serves more than 40,000 breakfasts and lunches each year through the good graces of People’s Kitchen. On average, 4,400 people use Prado’s services — which include case management to help resolve physical and mental health issues — as well as counseling on how to secure rental housing.

The center’s outreach includes sending homeless kids to after-school, summer, and weekend and holiday camps — with all supplies included. It gives out short-term motel vouchers to the medically fragile so they can recover from their illnesses.

Thanks to grants from the city of San Luis Obispo, Prado distributes 700 transportation tokens each month, and the city and county have been covering the costs of keeping Prado open as a warming station on cold and rainy nights.

How this is all done is somewhat of a miracle.

Government picks up about half of Prado’s annual budget; the other half comes from us, the community. For example, Temple Beth David served some 350 people Christmas dinner, where Prado clients received 500 pairs of underwear, 500 pairs of socks, 150 new jackets and sleeping bags.

Yet the bulk of the fundraising is engineered by the Friends of Prado Day Center (or, Angels Who Walk Among Us, as I prefer to refer to them). By appealing to you and your generosity, the Friends raised enough money for gifts to be given to close to 200 people on Christmas morning, which is only the most recent effort spearheaded by the Friends.

In that vein, the Friends’ largest annual fundraiser is coming up Feb. 3: The Fourth Annual Culinary Carnival.

For just $50 (two tickets, $100, enables the center to feed breakfast to 720 homeless men, women and children), you get a wide assortment of gourmet appetizers prepared by celebrity chefs from some of the finest restaurants in the county, in addition to fine wines and beers. There’s music, auctions and just a lot of fun. It’s a hoot for the best of causes.

To purchase tickets (be quick; this event sells out quickly), as well as to find a list of participating restaurants, chefs, wineries and breweries, go to www.sloculinarycarnival.com. The event will be at the Embassy Suites from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

If you can’t make the carnival but would still like to help underwrite the center and its programs, call the Friends at 541-7963. If you’d like to volunteer or receive more information on the center, call 786-0617.

What Prado Day Center clients need most

  • Adult men’s shoes, sizes 12, 13 and 14.
  • Zipper-type lunch bags, snack bags and gallon-size bags.
  • Disposable plates, bowls, hot beverage cups, spoons and forks and dish soap.
  • Diapers, sizes 4, 5 and 6.
  • Razors, feminine hygiene products, hotel/travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, soap and bath towels — new or gently used.
  • Laundry detergent and fabric softener.
  • Pens (blue or black), permanent markers, dry erase markers, tape and copy paper.
  • Cold cereal (big boxes), hot cereal (individual packets), margarine/butter, sliced bread, fruit juice, fresh fruit, jams, jellies, cream cheese, coffee, milk and lunch snacks.
  • Phone cards, bus passes and postage stamps.
  • Bike locks and chains.

Prado Day Center is at 43 Prado Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. Call Dee Torres, director of homeless services at 786-0617.

Reach Bill Morem at 781-7852.