H-SAN LUIS OBISPO

Dec 24, 2010 8:01 PM by Nancy Chen

Local homeless people celebrate Christmas

For many of us, it's the most wonderful time of the year, but lots of Central Coast families will go this weekend without a home to call their own.

The Prado Day Center in San Luis Obispo says it's seen the number of children there increase about 20 percent from last Christmas.

As the song goes, I'll be home for Christmas. But for many families, there is no home to wait for Santa Claus in this year.

"Almost a depression that sets through the families, especially this time of year, and we see it in the children," said Dee Torres, the homeless services director for Community Action Project.

She says hard times are definitely affecting the children, who often misbehave and lash out about their situations.

"The children are the most vulnerable of all," Torres said. "And we're seeing it take its toll on the children."

For them, there is no mall Santa to visit but instead Robert Myers, a man with a long, white beard who has been homeless for ten years.

"All these kids--the young ones--see me as Santa Claus," Myers said. "It brings tears to my eyes."

And it's because of these struggling families that Brad's, a restaurant in Pismo Beach, is opening its doors to anyone for free tomorrow night for Christmas dinner.

"Because of the economy and people struggling, they decided to open up our Christmas dinner to anybody that wanted to come," said Steve Becker, whose family owns the restaurant.

Brad's started serving a free dinner last year to anyone who wanted one, which came out to between 600 to 700 people.

Becker says he gets more out of feeding people who need a good Christmas dinner than his customers do.

"Last year, they kept me in the kitchen all year because every time I would go out front, I would start crying," Becker said. "It's a wonderful feeling to give."

The restaurant will serve up those free dinners from 1 to 6 p.m. tomorrow.

They're expecting between 500 to 700 people to show up.

In Santa Maria, there will be a christmas dinner tomorrow night at the Good Samaritan Shelter.

That's where the warming shelter will be open tonight and tomorrow night.

And in San Luis Obispo, the Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter opens at 5 p.m. and won't close until 7 a.m. Sunday; nobody will be turned away.

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