Completed Projects

El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO)

El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO)

Our four-year partnership with ECHO includes multiple phases with the ultimate goal of serving the community by increasing efficiencies of the shelter, and strengthening the success rate of finding permanent housing for homeless families. ECHO has been in operation for 15 years. ECHO was started as an all-volunteer based organization. Over the years ECHO has grown, but the success of ECHO clients continues to be largely due to the unique ability to provide these services through strong community support, a dedicated volunteer base, and professional staff. 

As a family shelter, ECHO is able to help families set up housing and allow the family time to actualize stability. Parents are able to identify and address the barriers to self-sufficiency. ECHO provides meals, safe and secure shelter, and utilizes case managers to help clients (individuals and families) resolve the issues that have been identified as barriers causing homelessness.

ECHO is a sober shelter, the only shelter in the county that operates as such. This philosophy is in line with their motto of “lifting those who are ready to help themselves”. Clients are breathalyzed as they enter the shelter each night. Breathalyzing screens for alcohol use.  They also conduct drug testing. ECHO knows that people struggling with recovery can sometimes have a slip up. They have a policy that takes positive drug testing into consideration. 

ECHO consistently strives to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness one person at a time—one family at a time.  ECHO believes in the model of lifting those who are ready to help themselves


San Luis Obispo County Statistics: According to the County Point in Time homeless counts of 2013 and 2015, the figures of homeless individuals went from 466 homeless in 2013 to 629 in 2015.

North County Statistics: During this same time period the El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO) increased its bed capacity from 30 to 50 beds, increasing their ability to serve families. Families make up 60% of ECHO clientele.

The lack of affordable housing in the North County is well documented. The problem this creates is huge, and the high cost of housing contributes to homelessness. First and last month’s rent, security deposits and credit checks are all barriers for low income people seeking housing, stability and self-sufficiency.  The Action for Healthy Communities Consortium study of 2013 found the primary causes of housing loss were:  loss of job, inability to afford rent, drug and alcohol use, divorce or separation and arguments with family members or friends. Other factors included mental illness, domestic violence and physical illness.


  • Strategic review of capital, personnel resources, and Board of Directors development with strategic planning. The first phase will not increase the number of beds directly at the shelter but will pave the way for increased efficiencies.
  • Conduct focus groups and increase communication by networking with business strategists, business owners, community leaders, and collaborative partners in the North County to better understand the situation of homelessness, how to successfully address needs to keep individuals on the path of permanent housing, and increase funding for ECHO.
  • Phase 2 will go into effect once outcomes are identified and clearly defined with strategic plans in place.  

Our Commitment

must! charities is committed to a 4-year, half million dollar collaboration with ECHO to address the homeless issues our community is faced with. Phase 1 is set up strategically to increase efficiencies of the shelter, and strengthen the success rate of finding permanent housing for homeless families.The four-year plan includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Complete Energy Audit to identify improvements to the facility that will improve energy efficiency and reduce utility costs. Savings will be reinvested in programs and staffing. Identify potential grants for project items as a result of this audit.
  • Board Development / Strategic Planning.
  • Adjustments to Staff Compensation Packages & Staffing so that they are in line with similar organizational pay scales. Increase hours/personnel to allow for increased grant writing, fund development as well as program development.
  • Invest in Solar Panels in order to offset electricity costs annually.
  • Invest in Laundry Facility Addition - on-site laundry room will benefit both clients of ECHO and ECHO creating long-term financial savings for the shelter and also having a latent effect of a fresher smelling shelter.
  • Invest in Donor Database Software to help ECHO better understand and manage donors and sponsors.
  • Evaluate Un-met needs in the North County - set up focus groups and/or attend current on-going focus groups to discuss and evaluate needs. Information will be prioritized and vetted for viability. Focus groups might consist of those working in the homeless social sector, public officials, community members and volunteers, and/or those who are living homeless or have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.
  • Evaluate Potential Partnerships within the north county community - communicate with other organizations who would be servicing the same or similar clients and brainstorm ideas of potential collaboration opportunities.
  • Business Strategist Consultant - contract with business consultant(s) who would explore and evaluate options for social enterprise components that could be viable for ECHO as well as their clients.
  • Research other Organizations who are successfully addressing homeless issues or similar social issues, both in and out of our county.
  • Evaluate and invest in Current Programs for Families that will improve mutual goals of raising families out of poverty to become productive and contributing members of our community.
  • Invest in Comunity Communication and Education to give us a better understanding of what the community's knowledge and view is on homelessness. Communication and education plans will be created based on the outcomes of these findings.


  • Phase 2 - Complete Commercial Kitchen Renovation - Will include teaching, culinary training, and life skill building.

Project Progress


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