This holiday season, cardboard donation boxes accepting food and toys have populated businesses in the SLO area, offering a way to make a difference for those in need.
After a survey with homeless individuals done by the County of San Luis Obispo in 2022, it was found that approximately 18% of the homeless were under 18 years old. It was also determined that of the houseless population, 80% were entirely unsheltered.
Unsheltered homelessness can occur for many different reasons. Some include evictions, trouble finding work, a lack of resources and much more.
Operation Santa 2023 is a program produced through the San Luis Obispo Department of Social Services. It offers support for low-income to moderate income families, seniors, foster kids, individuals in homeless services, and various other demographics.
This support comes primarily from donations received through the donation boxes seen around the SLO area. They are approximately one yard tall and can be spotted with a decorative Christmas themed wrapping paper near the entrances of some businesses.
These boxes display fliers offering information on the program. Aspects of these fliers include donation ideas:– Clothing
- Gift cards
- Arts & Crafts
- Recreational Tools (Bicycles, scooters, helmets, etc.)
- Foods (Canned and dry goods)
The fliers also include other ways to donate aside from the boxes:
- Bringing unwrapped gifts to the SLO Social Services office directly
- Calling or reaching out via phone or email
The program has so far filled approximately 2800 wishes throughout the past year, and this number continues to grow.
“Operation Santa helps us fulfill wishes for children who might otherwise receive nothing for Christmas,” said Devin Drake, Director of Social Services SLO County. “While we focus much of our effort to fill holiday wishes, this program is available throughout the year to help our families.”
The program works continuously through the years to provide assistance to families in need, utilizing the help of the community to do so.
Christine Mason, a SLO resident, donated children’s knee and elbow guards, and a skateboard as well, as a Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card.
“It is what the holidays are about,” said Mason, when asked about her donations. “People buy presents and gift cards for their loved ones and family because they care. It’s just the same as buying presents and gift cards for people in need. They are our family, too. After all, we are a community.”