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Turkey Drive: Good Samaritan program transitioning homeless clients into permanent housing

Turkey in the oven
Dave Alley/KEYT

ORCUTT, Calif. -- Good Samaritan Shelter is celebrating its latest success story with a program that helps transition homeless clients into permanent housing.

Last month, Myrtle Richardson moved into an Orcutt apartment through the "Rapid Re-Housing" program.

"I can't even tell you how it feels," said Richardson. "The weight of the world came off my shoulders."

A longtime Santa Maria area resident, Richardson spent the last 16 months living at Good Samaritan's Emergency Shelter prior to her move.

She came to shelter after losing her place to stay, while also battling health problems.

After initially being skeptical of the shelter, she came to realize it was a good idea.

"It did a lot for me mentally and physically," said Richardson. "They took very good care of me. I felt special."

During her time, she was much more than a client. Not only did she volunteer tirelessly for many duties, she also served as a mentor to others, acting as a self-described "mother hen."

"Myrtle means so much to everybody at the shelter," said Kirsten Cahoon, Good Samaritan Director of Shelter Operations. "She worked so hard. She helped us with meals. She was our star volunteer at the shelter."

As she lived in the shelter, Richardson longed for a place of her own. Due to circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic, many months went by, adding up to more than a year.

"They said we will get you somewhere to live Ms. Myrtle," said Richardson. "We promise you that."

She finally received her wish in early October when the Rapid Re-Housing program found her a place to live, a single-bedroom apartment in a quiet Old Town Orcutt neighborhood.

"It was a team effort throughout the community," said Buck Derrington, Rapid Re-Housing Case Manager. "We partnered with local non-profits, with the county, with the Housing Authority and we all worked together to try and find housing."

With the help of the program, Richardson moved into her new home on Oct. 8.

"Oh my lord," said Richardson. "All I could say was thank you Jesus. Thank you Buck. Thank you Kirsten. Thank you Good Samaritan. All the people that got behind me."

She even received many furnishings courtesy of local donations, including from Dignity Health.

"I had so many things given to me, said Richardson. "Brand new things. I was amazed."

Richardson is just one of hundreds of Good Samaritan clients that stand to benefit directly from the generous donations we receive from the NewsChannel 12 Turkey Drive.

"We have all of our programs, all of our clients," said Cahoon. "We want to make sure that every client we put in housing like Myrtle is going to be able to get a turkey that has been donated, so that's one less thing that they have to worry about."

For Richardson, this holiday is shaping up to be one she will never forget.

"It's going to be the best I think Thanksgiving I ever had," said Richardson. "It's such a great blessing. I can't tell you the feeling it makes me feel to know I'm going to get a turkey and it's going in my oven."

As she looks forward to Thanksgiving, Richardson knows she has much to be thankful for.

"I never felt alone at Good Samaritan," said Richardson. "I never felt alone. Any time I felt down all they had to do was reach out and there was somewhere there to comfort me. I thank Good Samaritan for everything that they've done for me, from the bottom of my heart."

The Turkey Drive is happening now and concludes on Thursday, November 19.

All proceeds benefit thousands of clients with Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Barbara County and SLO Food Bank in San Luis Obispo County.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the Turkey Drive efforts this year are being directed towards an online fundraising campaign.

Contributions can be made online. Donations can also be made by phone by texting @KCOY TURKEY to 52014.

For more information, or to donate, visit the NewsChannel 12 Turkey Drive webpage.

Holidays / Lifestyle / San Luis Obispo County / Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County / What's Right

Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at KCOY|KEYT|KKFX.

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