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ECHO expands one-to-one homeless outreach program 

The El Camino Homeless Shelter (ECHO) realized that with the spread of COVID-19, there was a great need to get information out to the people they try to help on a regular basis.

Wendy Lewis, president and CEO of ECHO, said $10,000 in funding from The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County allowed ECHO to expand a one-to-one outreach program that started late last year. In April, ECHO brought on Brad Zimmer as its new emergency resource outreach specialist.

click to enlarge OUTREACH In an effort to aid homeless community members within the North County region, the El Camino Homeless Shelter recently expanded its outreach program. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE EL CAMINO HOMELESS SHELTER
  • Photo Courtesy Of The El Camino Homeless Shelter
  • OUTREACH In an effort to aid homeless community members within the North County region, the El Camino Homeless Shelter recently expanded its outreach program.

During November 2019, Paso Robles contracted with ECHO to provide services to community members experiencing homelessness in the city. With the help of a grant from the Corporation of Supportive Housing, ECHO started an outreach program at the same time, doing more one-to-one outreach to those living on the streets, in encampments, and out of their cars in North County.

Zimmer's first priority in his position, Lewis said, is to work to keep vulnerable people safe.

He does this by helping unsheltered homeless individuals find solutions that will help them stay safe and nourished, and provide options to find shelter. Zimmer is currently handing out "safety bags." Lewis said the bags were created in response to COVID-19, and they contain food, safety and hygiene products—face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer—and pamphlets containing COVID-19 related information.

Zimmer is the perfect fit for the job, she said, as he's worked with homeless individuals in a number of settings, including in South County with the Five Cities Homeless Coalition.

Lewis said ECHO felt it was crucial for the organization to not only expand its outreach program but include items that are necessary to protect against the coronavirus.

"All of a sudden people who have limited access normally now have extremely limited access to hygiene or food. So there are decreased chances of washing their hands and doing all those steps that are recommended, and limited access to information," she said. "So with all of that put together, we said we need to step up and do something."

For Lewis and the larger ECHO team, the goal of the program expansion is not only to help the community members it serves, it's the nonprofit's way of doing its part to prevent community spread of the virus.

Zimmer began the outreach initiative in Paso Robles and is working his way toward Atascadero and the North Coast. On his first day on the job, Lewis said Zimmer was able to reach 80 individuals, providing them with safety bags that included a cloth mask, soap, water, and instructions on how to keep the mask clean.

For more information on the outreach program expansion or how to donate to ECHO, visit echoshelter.org.

Fast facts

• A.M. Sun Solar—which is considered an "essential" business—is seeking to hire reliable solar installers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Experience is required for the lead positions. For more about résumé submissions, pay details, and other employment information, please visit amsunsolar.com or contact Sharon Ray via email at sray@amsunsolar.com or by phone at (805) 772-6786.

• During the shelter-at-home period, the city of Paso Robles is helping residents with internet accessibility by expanding the reach of the Paso Robles City Library's and the Library Study Center's wireless router reception. For the downtown City Library (100 Spring St.), the best Wi-Fi reception will be on 11th Street along the building's north-facing windows. At the Library Study Center (3600 Oak St.), the best reception will be in the vicinity of 36th and Oak streets. Wi-Fi will be available from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week at both locations. Residents are asked to access the internet from their vehicles or a location that allows them to practice safe physical distancing at all times. To connect to Wi-Fi, log in to the library's secured network, which is the same at both locations. The network is "LibraryWiFi" and the password is "2020wifi." Visit the city website at prcity.com for more information. Δ

Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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