San Luis Obispo County is the third worst county in the nation for sheltering the homeless, according to a recent federal report. The report compares all the Unites States counties and San Luis Obispo County received that rank in the group of smaller counties.
"Any day I feel like I can die out here, die in that creek," said Jule Menard, who is homeless. According to the federal Annual Homeless Assessment Report, out of the 2,300 homeless people in San Luis Obispo County 90 percent are just like Menard, unsheltered.
Currently there are two overnight shelters in the county, Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter and ECHO. Both total 80 beds.
"We've shortened the amount of time people can stay here, and that allows us to serve more clients and they are able to stay here for a shorter period of time, because we have an intense case management model that supports them to move quickly out of the shelter and into housing,” said Bill Watt, the executive director of ECHO.
According to county data there are roughly 200 families that are homeless and about 79 percent are unsheltered. "The families I think are one of the fastest growing groups of the homeless," said Watt.
Due to the shortage of beds, groups are working for better solutions. "The other thing is looking at models of avoiding the whole shelter model, and moving people straight off the street and into housing, and then you follow the services to them," said Watt. That's the goal to get people into housing, because right now nine out of 10 people are unsheltered. "When the rains come, and when it gets cold at night and you're sick like I am, it really makes it difficult because there is not a bone in my body that doesn't ache," said Menard.
Throughout the county there are churches and other organizations that do take people in at night; the ECHO homeless shelter is also in the process of adding 20 more beds. The county along with other organizations, has been working for several years on bringing in a new shelter.