It’s darn hard to get around on the Central Coast if you don’t have a car. That’s a fact that hit home for members of the Morro Bay Lions Club when Bill Todd, of Todd’s Garage in Morro Bay decided to do something about that and enlisted the help of the club. It was his idea to obtain older model cars in fairly good condition and fix them up and give them away to individuals who are struggling with transportation and finding it difficult to earn a living.
Transportation is often the stumbling block for a person crawling their way out of homelessness. Without it, they have difficulty getting employment even if the job is located not far from a bus line. If they cannot get to their job, on time, every day they run the risk of losing that job. Employers may be understanding but they also need their workers to be on the job. This is a story that people at the Los Osos Cares Community Resource Center hear all the time. Bus transportation is dicey here.
That’s what Kelley Welch ran into when she recently landed a great job as a preschool teacher at Grandmother’s House in San Luis Obispo. Welch, who is technically homeless but fortunate to stay temporarily at a friend’s home, hoped this job would help her be able to get her own place to live.
Welch was raised here in Los Osos from the time she was six years old. She attended Sunnyside Grammar School, Los Osos Middle School, and after some home schooling entered Cuesta College early. Taking courses in education she received her diploma qualifying her to teach preschool. “I knew this was the career for me,” she said, “I love working with kids.”
She obtained employment at a local preschool and was still living with her mother at the time. Then misfortune struck. In 2013 Welch’s mother’s trust fund went bankrupt, and they were eventually evicted from their rental home. Now homeless, she was offered a job as a nanny for a family relocating to Arizona. Her mother did not desire to move out of state and ended up at the shelter in San Luis Obispo for nine months, eventually being placed by CAPSLO in a small apartment at Judson Terrace.
When the nanny job ended Welch found a job teaching preschool in Phoenix. Then the pandemic hit in 2020 and she found that Arizona was not a progressive state and many people rejected vaccination. It was then she decided to return to the Central Coast. However, jobs were hard to find and housing even more difficult. She lucked out and landed a great job at a preschool in San Luis Obispo, but she learned the hard way that relying on bus transportation was impossible.
Trying to coordinate travel with two separate bus companies, some that are suffering with lack of drivers, Welch often found herself unable to reach her job. “Once I went to the bus stop and waited a long time. When the bus didn’t show up, I noticed a little paper sign on the pole there,” she said, “the sign said this was no longer a bus stop.” Between this and often finding the bus either not showing up or suddenly changing their routes, Welch found herself scrambling to get to her job every day.
That’s when she heard about EBAC and the Moro Bay Lions Club Car Giveaway Program, and she sent in an application. On Thanksgiving Day, she was thrilled to be awarded a 2008 white Pontiac Vibe at the Morro Bay Community Center by Lions Bill Todd, Ray McKelvey, and President Chuck Stoll. It is the 38th car the Morro Bay Lions Club has given away. “Without this car,” she said, “it’s likely I would lose my job. And I love this job!”
While Welch is still technically homeless, although grateful for the friend’s room, she hopes to save up towards a place of her own. But that, of course, will not be easy as housing is the other huge problem for folks hoping to keep themselves from homelessness or to get out of it.