Shelly Higginbotham, Board President
Shelly Higginbotham currently serves as the Mayor of Pismo Beach, and on the County-wide Homeless Services Oversight Council. She (and her husband) were recently recognized as the 2012 Pismo Beach Citizens of the Year. She holds a B.S. in child development and a M.S. in psychology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She has been active in many civic activities during her 33 years on the Central Coast.
Rick Gulino, Board Vice President
Rick Gulino, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and manages the Supportive Housing Program for People’s Self-Help Housing(PSSH), which provides case management and social services for PSHH’s 3,500 residents. Rick brings more than 15 years of mental health expertise, especially as it relates to homelessness, to the Coalition. Rick is a native of Massachusetts and moved to the Central Coast five years ago. He lives in Oceano with his wife Sara (also a LCSW) and their young son. Rick holds a B.S. social psychology from the University of Massachusetts
Dena Bellman, Board Treasurer
Dena Bellman comes to the Coalition with extensive civic involvement, especially in the South County area. Working as a Parks and Recreation Specialist with the Ocean Dunes District of California State Parks, Dena brings a knowledge of government and community to the Coalition. She formerly worked with the California Department of Corrections, Parole & Community Services Division. She is active in many community building efforts, currently serving as Vice President of United Way of San Luis Obispo County. She is Past President of Court Appointed Special Advocates and is a volunteer with ICARE international, having recently returned from a humanitarian mission to Honduras.
Tom Clough, Board Secretary
Tom Clough is an intellectual property attorney and has been active with many for-profit and non-profit organizations in planning and policy development. He is currently Board President for the Center for Restorative Justice Works and is former Board Chairman for the Newman Community serving Cal Poly and Cuesta College. His board membership with non-profits involves the development of both overall strategic plans as well as short, intermediate, and long-term plans including team organizing/building and planning. His current volunteer activities include South County People’s Kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, Get OnThe Bus and St. Patrick’s Outreach/Social Justice Programs.
Michael Byrd, a licensed real estate broker and owner of SLO HomeStore, serves California’s Central Coast as an exclusive buyer’s representative. A resident of Arroyo Grande, he has served on both the Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach chambers of commerce and is a past president of the Grover Beach Chamber, the Pismo Coast Association of Realtors and the Scenic Coast Association of Realtors. Currently a member of the board of directors for the Latino Outreach Council and for the NAEBA Referral Service, Inc., he brings strategic planning, public relations and marketing experience to the organization.
Jeff Lee, a civil engineer with the County of San Luis Obispo by day, currently serves on the Grover Beach City Council. He has represented the City of Grover Beach on the County-wide Homeless Services Oversight Council. A long-time community volunteer, Jeff has served as past president of the San Luis Obispo Kiwanis. He has been recognized with the Claire Gates Lifetime Award by the SLO Little Theatre, having also served as its president.
Laurie Morgan works as the S.A.F.E. systems coordinator, overseeing family resource centers in South County to assist families with basic needs and support services. Laurie has a passion for the well-being of children and volunteers in various community efforts on behalf of children, including currently serving as treasurer for both the South County Youth Coalition and the San Luis Obispo Child Abuse Prevention Council. Laurie brings years of experience to the Board assisting homeless families in crisis.
Chris Soto was born and raised in Arroyo Grande and the Nipomo area. She attended local schools, graduating from AGHS and Cal Poly with a certificate in business administration. Chris has worked in the banking industry for more than 24 years with MidState Bank & Trust/Rabobank and currently as Assistant Branch Manager with CoastHills Federal Credit Union in Arroyo Grande. Chris has served with many nonprofit organizations, notably Camp Fire USA, Girl Scouts of America and the Grizzly Youth Academy. She is married to her high school sweetheart Fred, and they live in Nipomo with their two boys Rocky & Milo.
Richard Van Houten
Richard Van Houten, a resident of Nipomo, brings to the 5CHC Board of Directors an understanding of the needs of those who are homeless and marginalized. A retired information technology director, he has served for more than 20 years as a shelter and food service volunteer at Prado Day Center and the Maxine Lewis Shelter in SLO, and on various committees with SLO United Methodist Church. He was a BSA scoutmaster from 1992 to 2000.
Larry Vernon is a retired Santa Maria Police Department Sergeant who has lived with his family in Grover Beach for more than 35 years. His three children and three granddaughters were all born in San Luis Obispo. He has a B.S. in organizational leadership, and has been a board member of Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Maria since 1989. He also served on the board of Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley from 2006 to 2010. Active as a reserve police officer, he is committed to seeing the needs of his neighbors and helping them succeed as productive community members.
Founders and Former Board Members
5Cities Homeless Coalition is grateful for the vision and hard work of two women who come from a place of compassion and who truly seek to help the less fortunate of our community.
“I have found that there is a tremendous need for programs to be centralized in one place for those who do not have the means for help. From this premise, the 5Cities Homeless Coalition was born. We have been blessed with the ability to make this a reality and with the assistance of the community and the elected officials…this will happen.”
Betsy Ehrler has worked to improve communication within the People’s Kitchen family of 300 volunteers and other agencies that work to support the homeless population in the 5 Cities area. In 2008, she was the recipient of the first Community Impact Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award for San Luis Obispo County.