The Atascadero City Council adopted a resolution to expand the services of the ECHO homeless shelter. Founded in 2001, ECHO provides food, shelter and supportive services to those in need. 

A presentation by Phil Dunsmore, the City’s Community Development Director, requested tweaks to the current ECHO operation and management plans that affect its minor use permit and zoning laws. Among the changes suggested were an increase of 10 additional beds and changes of the current staff/client ratio from one staff for every 25 clients to one staff for every 30 clients. The most significant alteration requested consisted of opening the facility to daytime operations. 

“That’s a very significant thing,” Dunsmore said. “This would make this a daytime shelter for those clients so they can get them programmed into things that are really going to help them out. It allows families and medically fragile clients a place to be during the day.”

One former client spoke against adding daytime hours to ECHO, voicing concerns that people would take advantage of the daytime hours and that the facility also ran the risk of beginning to “feel like home” instead of being a springboard to self-reliance. 

In response, Executive Director Wendy Lewis reassured the Council that concerns of client complacency have been taken into account. 

“When you come into our program,” Lewis said, “you have a case plan and your case plan includes forward progress. The idea being people would be at the facility getting resources, still working with case management and getting increased case management.”

Lewis gave an example of a young man working swing and night shifts and stated that the new hours would provide him a place to sleep during the day. She said that the changes would bring an expansion of services and in turn create a higher client turnover by moving people forward quicker.

“We have community partners waiting in the wings to extend those opportunities because of the time schedule change,” Lewis said.  

While at the podium, Lewis took the opportunity to address the lack of childcare in the area, calling it “a huge community need.” The State funds a preschool program for ages three to five, but Lewis said finding childcare for children under the age of three is the biggest hurdle for parents seeking employment. 

“That is a big gap that we need to look at,” she said.

Getting through this together, Atascadero