Let’s get something clear from the get-go: Contrary to popular belief in certain circles, not all of the unfortunate souls who are homeless on the Central Coast are panhandlers bumming bucks downtown who have come to San Luis Obispo for the weather.
Sure, there are people who make a living out of asking for spare change, only to use that money for drink and/or drugs. I’ve got no time for those individuals.
The homeless who break my heart are those folks who, through circumstances beyond their control — whether it’s foreclosure, loss of job or uninsured illness — find themselves on the street. And the subset within that group who most need shepherding by our community are the children of the homeless.
Imagine you’re a kid (and about a third of those who are homeless in San Luis are children) and you have to bunk down at night at the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter, or a section of church or synagogue, or a car. Imagine trying to make friends at your school, fearing that those potential friends may find out that you don’t have a home.
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It’s a misery index that has to be addressed, and that’s why the Prado Day Center (the only day center in the county) is such a valuable lifeline for those who have hit a rough patch in life.
Prado is 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 preschoolers who have a room and a yard in which to play.
In addition to helping adults meet goals of self-sufficiency, Prado provides space for Community Health Centers to address mental health and medical case management — which numbered 3,158 individuals last year.
Further, the Dambly Fund — which is overseen by the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County at Prado — ensures that no homeless child within the center’s services goes without shoes, warm clothes and backpacks. The fund has provided more than $5,000 in assistance over the past two years, and allows children to shop for their clothes like all other kids, rather than having to go through the donation tables.
The Dambly Fund isn’t the only source that helps underwrite the center and its programs; in addition to government funding for case management, The Friends of Prado Day Center raises money for a variety of needs that helps ease the burden of homelessness, with their major fundraiser being the annual Culinary Carnival.
This year’s event — the fifth annual — is from 2 to 5 p.m. Feb. 24 at Embassy Suites in San Luis Obispo.
The Mardi Gras-themed fest offers delectable delights from 11 of the county’s leading restaurants, accompanied by fine wines and beers from 12 wineries and breweries.
This year’s master of ceremonies is Sheriff Ian Parkinson. In addition to a silent auction, a live auction has been added and will be conducted by Cuesta College President Gil Stork. Music and a 50/50 drawing are also part of the festivities.
All of this and more is just $50 per ticket. To put that is some perspective, two tickets — $100 — will provide breakfasts for more than 700 homeless men, woman and children who use Prado’s services.
To purchase tickets, as well as to find a list of participating restaurants, chefs, wineries and breweries, go to www.sloculinarycarnival.com.
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.
Make a donation
Another way to help is to donate items to the Prado Day Center. Here are some much need items for those using Prado’s services:
Prado Day Center is at 43 Prado Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. Dee Torres, director of homeless services can be reached at 786-0617.