I have experienced homelessness first hand and I didn’t like the way it made me feel. In my first life I was a beautician for almost 20 years. I left an abusive marriage and moved 3,000 miles from Maryland to California to “start over”!
Since moving to California I lived on the streets, lived in a shelter, went back to college for a second degree, worked for the Santa Barbara County Housing Authority for 14 years and have since been with the Community Health Centers of the Central Coast; first as a member of the Board of Directors and currently as an employee in charge of the Special Populations Programs.
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.
Board Vice President
Betsy Ehrler spends her day-time as a reading teacher at a local elementary school. In her spare time, she serves as the secretary for the 5Cities Homeless Coalition and President of South County People’s Kitchen. She takes her responsibilities very seriously and 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 Award — Outstanding Volunteer of the Year for San Luis Obispo County.
Chris was born and raised in Arroyo Grande and the Nipomo area. She attended local schools graduating from AG High School and Cal Poly with a certificate in business administration. Chris has worked in the banking industry for over 24 years with Mid State 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 lives in Nipomo with their two boys Rocky & Milo.
Dena comes to the Coalition with extensive civic involvement, especially in the South County area. Working as a Park 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, Past President of Court Appointed Special Advocates and as a volunteer with ICARE international, having recently returned from a humanitarian mission to Honduras.
Tom Clough is an Intellectual Property Attorney and has been active with many profit and nonprofit organizations in planning and policy development. He is currently Board President for the Center for Restorative Justice Works and was former Board Chairman for the Newman Community serving Cal Poly and Cuesta College. His board membership with non-profits include the development of both overall strategic plans as well as short, intermediate, and long-term plans including team organizing/building, 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.
Robyn DeRohan comes to the Coalition with extensive non-profit experience, most recently with Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Maria, working with those who are homeless. She understands the additional facets that they sometimes experience and values the relationships and experiences they have shared. A resident of Nipomo, Robyn is active in a variety of local community building efforts. She and her husband have two sons and a daughter in law.
Rick Gulino, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and manages the Supportive Housing Program for People’s Self-Help Housing, 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. degree in Social/Psychology from the University of Massachusetts and Master’s of Social Work from California State University, Long Beach. He has managed a school-based treatment program for troubled youth in Compton and has worked as an outreach worker for those who are homeless and suffer from mental illness.
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.
Phyllis is a second generation American, with an Irish, Hungarian and English heritage. She is a former councilwoman for the City of Grover Beach, and owns her own bookkeeping business. Over her career, Phyllis have worked in retail, child care and local and state government. She and her husband and have a son in the Navy.