New program provides $50,000 and access to virtual leadership training

Bank of America announced Thursday, Oct. 24, the launch of its Neighborhood Champions program in San Luis Obispo County, an invitation-only program for high impact local nonprofits who are poised to take their work to the next level. El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO) was selected to receive the inaugural award. As part of the new program, ECHO will receive a $50,000 grant and an opportunity to participate in virtual leadership training on topics ranging from human capital to financial sustainability by experts in the nonprofit sector.

“ECHO is extremely grateful to Bank of America and their team for choosing us as the first Neighborhood Champion,” said Wendy Lewis, ECHO President and CEO. “This incredible gift arrived at the perfect time to help us expand our services at ECHO and in a new second shelter in Paso Robles. Our team will more than double over the next couple years, so the leadership training will be key to growing our team’s skills and knowledge.”

According to the most recent San Luis Obispo County biannual point-in-time census, the homeless count has increased by nearly one-third since last January, with 1,483 people experiencing homelessness. Only 21 percent of the homeless are sheltered, meaning they live in an emergency shelter or transitional housing. The remainder live on the street, in vehicles, in encampment areas and abandoned buildings.

As one of only two permanent homeless shelters in the county, ECHO works to reverse this trend by providing transitional and emergency shelter beds, hot meals, showers, and supportive services. It also works with clients to eliminate the barriers to maintaining stable housing such as repairing credit, applying for benefits, obtaining medical treatment, connecting to community resources and finding permanent housing. Echo will use the Neighborhood Champion funds to add staffing capacity as it transitions to a 24/7 facility, additional beds, a culinary workforce career program and community outreach services.  

“ECHO’s comprehensive approach to addressing homelessness and moving people onto a path of stability is an effective tool in helping combat homelessness in our community,” said Greg Bland, San Luis Obispo market president, Bank of America. “Their management team has worked tirelessly to build relationships with the community, and we are excited to provide additional leadership training and funding to help them manage and sustain long term growth.”

Getting through this together, Atascadero