The San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation received the $1.5 Million Klaproad Family bequest to address homelessness in the South County area. The 5Cities Homeless Coalition is committed to empowering the homeless to become self-sufficient and was selected by the Foundation as the lead organization for the South County Community Services Center. Partners with the Coalition are anticipated to include:

San Luis Obispo Community Foundation

Cuesta College

Dignity Health

South County People’s Kitchen

Betsy Ehrler is the President and coordinator the South County People’s Kitchen in the 5-Cities area. The People’s Kitchen started serving meals in May of 1992. For almost 20 years teams of volunteers from throughout the 5-Cities area have given of themselves by making and serving a nutritious noon-time meal every day of the year including Thanksgiving and Christmas. With 35 different teams, representing 18 local churches, as well as a team from Arroyo Grande Community Hospital and the Santa Maria Rescue Mission, over 300 volunteers are actively involved each month.

The population served is diverse. They are each someone’s sister or brother, mother or father, aunt or uncle. They are all food-challenged with some being homeless while others are not. Some are referred to as the “working-poor” – they have a job but they cannot afford a place to live. Some struggle with alcohol and/or drug addiction. Some are in rehab programs and are clean and sober. There are also retirees on pensions who are sometimes caring for grandchildren and single moms, all of whom are just scraping by. Some are the mentally unstable and mentally challenged, the physically handicapped and families in which one or both parents have recently lost their jobs. During school vacations and weekends school-aged children come and eat. A large majority of the people fed were born and raised in this area and often know people on the teams who are serving them. Although this worthwhile grass-roots effort has helped thousands, more is needed. Unfortunately, over the years the People’s Kitchen has had to shift locations several times, causing undue disruption in the flow of the much needed service it provides. As its vision is realized, the 5Cities Homeless Coalition will help by providing a permanent location for the People’s Kitchen to call home.

19 Faith Communities & Community Volunteers

In addition, a large group of South County churches and other community volunteers will work closely with the 5Cities Homeless Coalition on the South County Community Services Center project.