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Renovations and upgrades complete at ECHO’s Atascadero transitional homeless shelter

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Angel Russell
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A church in Atascadero that was converted into a transitional homeless shelter a few years ago recently got a much-needed upgrade.

Wendy Lewis is president and CEO of El Camino Homeless Organization, also known as ECHO. She said prior to the modern look and feel of the separated rooms, soft lighting, and vinyl floors, the building was a bit rough on the eyes.

“The floors here used to be from the 1970s," Lewis said. "And it just did not feel like we wanted it to feel.”

Through a partnership with People’s Self-Help Housing, ECHO was able to complete Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades, repaint the building, and add more privacy and bed space.

Lewis said prior to the transformation, individuals slept in a large room that had curtains to separate spaces.

Now, there are more private living spaces, more rooms for families and a common area for computer and entertainment use.

It’s not the typical shelter people may envision, Lewis said.

“I often have people imagine that shelter of a big open space with just bed after bed," Lewis said. "And not like this home-like environment that we really strived to provide.”

Another big upgrade is the kitchen. What was once a small outdated church kitchen, has now been replaced with a full commercial-sized kitchen and large dining space.

Lewis said they plan to use the kitchen to help people gain skills for the food industry.

“So we would be able to provide restaurant training right out of this facility here," Lewis said. "To not only help the people we serve, but people that just need that next level of employment, so it would be open to the public.”

While ECHO’s project is done at the Atascadero shelter, it’s on to the next as plans to do something similar to the new shelter in Paso Robles are underway. The shelter in Paso was once a Motel 6.

“Right now it’s kind of an asphalt jungle," Lewis said. "And hopefully in about a year that will all be changed.”

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