NORTH COUNTY — El Camino Homeless Organization has received funding recently made available to provide additional services to people experiencing homelessness in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding comes from a variety of sources, including U.S Housing and Urban Development and the State of California.

With this infusion of funding, ECHO will enhance many of the existing programs at its Atascadero shelter. Simultaneously, services will be significantly expanded in Paso Robles and other North County communities where services for the homeless have been limited.

In Atascadero, isolation trailers have already been added on the campus, along with 24-hour handwashing stations, restroom facilities and enhanced safety and sanitation protocols. The longstanding meal program has also transitioned to a “to-go” style meal to promote social distancing.

In Paso Robles, ECHO will be opening an emergency shelter in the fall with 25 beds to help with safety and social distancing. The funding will also allow ECHO to purchase a mobile shower and restroom trailer that will be used in conjunction with the emergency facility.

Funding will also increase ECHO’s emergency outreach program by adding staff for additional case management services, distribution of food and safety bags throughout North County and the North Coast and direct aid services such as bus passes.

“These funds provide an incredible opportunity for ECHO to serve our clients even more comprehensively during these unprecedented times,“ said Wendy Lewis, President and CEO of ECHO. “We have seen outbreaks that have spread quickly among homeless communities in other parts of the country. While we have been fortunate here on the Central Coast so far, support like these funds are needed so that we can enhance our safety protocols and expand our services to those facing hunger and homelessness.” 

Lewis went on to say, “What we are particularly excited about is that these investments will continue to benefit the community for years to come, even beyond the current pandemic.”

Funding has also been made available to assist individuals and families who are in danger of losing their housing due to job loss or other hardships related to the pandemic. The program is being developed in collaboration with 40 Prado and 5 Cities Homeless Coalition. ECHO will oversee the implementation of this program in North County.

“We believe that this component will become more critical in the coming months as the financial impacts of this epidemic are realized,” says Lewis. “Homelessness across the nation is at an all time high. An added component of our work has become, and will continue to be, working to keep the number of unsheltered in our communities from increasing.” 

ECHO’s residency program provides case management services to assist homeless individuals in securing a job and finding permanent and sustainable housing within three months of entering the shelter program. While enrolled in the program, clients are taught life skills for employment, budgeting, health care management and social communication and interaction.