May 5, 2011 9:49 PM by Danielle Lerner

New report has local volunteers saying more needs to be done to help the homeless

Local volunteers say more needs to be done to help the homeless in San Luis Obispo County. A report released Wednesday says there are 3,774 homeless people in the county on any given night. Fifty-one percent are adults and 49 percent are under the age of 18. Northern San Luis Obispo County and the City of San Luis Obispo are home to the highest percentages of homeless, with 26 percent living in the southern portion of the county.

Still one local group is not surprised by the numbers.

It is lunch time at the South County People's Kitchen in Grover Beach. Many who eat here are homeless and Donna Driscoll is one of them.

"Being a woman, by yourself, it's dangerous," Driscoll said. "We appreciate people like this because it shows the community coming together, it's like people looking after each other."

Chuck Ashton and his crew of volunteers from United Methodist Church will feed and help clothe at least 100 people on any given day.

"All sizes and shapes, as summer comes we'll see more kids and more people coming here," Ashton said.

Ashton believes the nearly 4,000 homeless counted in the report make up just a small portion of the homeless population. In his years of volunteering, Ashton has found that looks can be deceiving.

"We all look at the chronic homeless person, that's less than 3 percent of the population out there," Ashton said.

Out of the 270 adults surveyed in the report, three percent are seniors and 16 percent are veterans. Sixty-five percent say they have lived in the county for more than five years, and 48 percent reported sleeping outside or in a car the night of the count.

"I think more needs to be done because aren't they our neighbors?" Ashton said. "They're our fellow man and we can't ignore them, and I don't want to ignore them."

A proposed 200-bed homeless services center in San Luis Obispo is still in the works. Last month the county board of supervisors made the 1.1 acres of land off Prado Road and South Higuera Street available for the project. However the county still needs to come up with more than six million dollars to build it, so any sort of occupancy date is still likely many years away.

Back in December Santa Barbara County identified more than 4,500 homeless students. That is more than double what it was two years ago.


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