Helping the homeless on the Central Coast

Helping the homeless on the Central...

MONTEREY, Calif. - After seeing our continuing coverage of the ongoing homeless crisis here on the Central Coast, you asked about ways to help, and we have some answers.

We recently heard from some of our viewers on social media asking for more perspective.

According to this year's census, there are almost 3,000 homeless people live in Monterey County, a 23% increase from two years ago. And back then, we had the highest number recorded in a decade.

We've done a lot of stories about the Chinatown and Benchlands sweeps. And now, it's time we talk about solutions.

"I think they get really excited for our Christmas dinner and opening gifts," says Program Director for Safe Place Shirley Millico.

Like everyone else, homeless and runaway youth staying at Safe Place in Monterey are looking forward to one of the biggest holidays of the year.

"Creating a safe place for them to enjoy, being around, kind of, a family setting, i think is really important. It's definitely the Christmas buzz around safe place."

Millico says she works with some of the smartest young people she's ever met, but sometimes luck just isn't on their side.

"I think that the big misconception is that youth choose to be homeless. You could have severe family conflict and a youth will leave that situation. ... Economic stress ... The financial struggles. Some of our youth are asked to leave home. It could be there sexual identity."

These are some of the challenges that drive people onto the streets, some adults are turning to the Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging program.

"It's a nomadic shelter program. That means we change location every night and what we do is we pick up folks who are currently homeless in a vehicle and transport them to different congregations in the area," says Karen Aruajo with the program.

Sweep after sweep in Chinatown and the Benchlands help highlight the important issue. But advocates say the real solutions are human kindness and generosity.

"We are asking for all the basic needs that could be canned goods, jackets, you know, warm clothing," says Millico.

"I think the best we can do is keep that compassion and awareness in our hearts. Theses are not the other. This is our community," says Aurajo.

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