Matt Navarette and his family got a lift up from nonprofit; now he helps those in the same situation

ATASCADERO — El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO) has many success stories to share and occasionally, an exceptional story comes to light. Matt Navarrete is one such story.

The Navarrete family was like any typical family … until crime moved into their neighborhood. A young family, Matt and Miriam, were expecting their third child when the neighborhood became unsafe for them. Matt’s mother made the offer that they temporarily move in with her until they could get on their feet again. When the property owner found out two families were living in the house, he gave an ultimatum that someone moves out. Matt and Miriam made the difficult decision to split up, Matt would stay with a friend in Atascadero and continue to look for work. Miriam’s mother offered that she and the children move in with her in Los Angeles until they were able to find their own housing.

Matt Navarette is now the shelter manager at ECHO Paso Robles after he and his family were helped by the organization. Contributed Photo

While working temporary jobs and living on his friend’s couch, Matt began searching for stable, permanent work. He found a paid internship at ECHO through a workforce development program, and it was here that he learned he could bring Miriam and their children to ECHO to enter the 90-day program to restart their lives. 

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“It was never my plan to end up homeless, especially with a newborn, but it just wasn’t safe in our neighborhood anymore, and we had nowhere to go to stay together,” he said.

After a few months, Matt was able to secure full-time employment, and the family moved into a three-bedroom apartment. 

“We were so happy to have our own place,” he said. “It was such a feeling of relief to know that we were going to make it, we had a roof over our heads and food on the table, and we are so thankful for the ECHO program. I don’t know what we would have done without it.”

And where is the Navarrete family now? Miriam works in Paso Robles, and the kids are happy and attend Atascadero schools. As for Matt, well, he decided he wanted to help others and is now the shelter manager at ECHO, Paso Robles. Matt’s story is an inspiration to all that come through the doors seeking help.

ECHO operates shelters in Atascadero and Paso Robles to meet the immediate needs of families and individuals who have become homeless. With a unique residency program, clients are provided case management services to assist them 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. The goal and the result of this practical support is the empowerment of residents to move in a positive direction while assisting them in acquiring the skills and services they need to become self-sustaining, including secure housing.

A force of 1,500 community volunteers provides ancillary support to run the shelters and a meal program that serves as many as 140 dinners each night to both shelter residents and the homeless population. ECHO also operates a shower program that provides hot showers three nights a week to anyone in need. ECHO supplies all the necessary toiletries and offers access to clothing, blankets, sleeping bags and much needed footwear.