About SLO County


San Luis Obispo County Profile

San Luis Obispo County is located on California’s scenic central coast, bordered by Monterey, Kern and Santa Barbara Counties to the north, east and south (respectively). The population of the county numbers over 273,000, the majority of which lies within seven incorporated cities (Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo). SLO County is more than 3,304 square miles in size, the vast majority of which is agricultural land or open space. The state is a large employer in the area (through a state university, hospital and detention center); other major industries include agriculture and tourism. Local attractions include Hearst Castle (the estate of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst) and a growing wine region.

Though perhaps not immediately apparent to locals or tourists, like other communities, SLO County is not without problems or needs. According to the 2013 ACTION for Healthy Communities Indicator Report, 15% of survey respondents reported that they went without some basic needs (most commonly healthcare and food) in the last year. The same survey reports California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) scores of third graders in each of the county’s school districts; only 52% of third-grade students scored proficient or above in the English-Language Arts subject area. When considering the health of adult residents, the ACTION Report uses some data collected by the California Health Interview Survey; in 2012, 48% of adults in SLO County were overweight or obese, as determined by body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater.

While we live in a wonderful place, it is clear that there is still much we can do to make our community stronger and healthier. For 50 years United Way of SLO County has been working with local partners to do just that. Please help us continue our good work by giving, advocating or volunteering on behalf of an issue you are passionate about; for more information visit the links below.

San Luis Obispo County
City of Arroyo Grande
City of Atascadero
City of Grover Beach
City of Morro Bay
City of Paso Robles

City of Pismo Beach
City of San Luis Obispo
Open for Business in SLO
County Health Rankings

The Central Coast Commission for Senior Citizens, Area Agency on Aging (AAA), released an April 2013 report on the needs of seniors in our community. Download the report, "Needs of an Ageing Community" by clicking here.

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ACTION for Health Communities

Since 1998, ACTION for Healthy Communities has been reporting on the quality of life in San Luis Obispo County, measured by indicators in seven key areas: basic needs, the economy, education, health, our natural environment, public safety and the social environment. The published reports help identify specific needs of the county’s most vulnerable populations, and help guide the work of many local nonprofit organizations, including United Way. ACTION for Healthy Communities is a cooperative, collaborative effort of individual agencies and organizations, public and private, that are committed to improving the overall quality of life in SLO County. To view all of the reports, visit www.actionslo.org.

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Common Good Forecaster

United Way and Measure of America have created the Common Good Forecaster tool to forecast how things might change in our local community if education outcomes were better. Use this interactive map to explore the impact of education in our community. The Human Development Index was developed as an alternative to simple money metrics. It is an easy-to-understand measurement consisting of what many believe to be the basic ingredients of human well-being: health, education, and income.

Struggling to Get By: The Real Cost Measure in California 2015

Struggling to Get By introduces the Real Cost Measure, a basic needs budget approach to better understand the challenges facing California households. A basic needs budget approach is intuitive and easy for most people to understand, as it is composed of things all families must address such as food, housing, transportation, childcare, out of pocket health expenses, and taxes. A basic needs budget approach takes into account different costs of living in different communities, and also conveys a better sense of the hardship for families with income below the basic needs budget level as it invokes the notion of tradeoffs between competing needs—if you have an inadequate level of income, do you sacrifice on food, gas, or childcare?

Struggling to Get By explores the Real Cost Measure through different lenses. At the geographic level, we conduct “apples to applies” comparisons among counties, regions and neighborhoods (through public use microdata areas). We also discuss challenges facing specific households such as single mothers, households with young children, households of color and seniors.

Read the full report, visualize hardships throughout California through Interactive Maps, and learn about Real Cost Budgets from United Way's of California.

A Portrait of California

sThe first-ever California Human Development Report (May 2011) revealed widening differences among ordinary Californians in the areas of health, education and income. A Portrait of California, a report by the American Human Development Project and funded in part by United Ways of California, provides an easy-to-understand composite number to measure the well-being of Californians in the areas of education, income and health. Researchers used the internationally-recognized Human Development Index (HD Index) to rank how Californians are doing against key benchmarks, broken out by demographic, geographic and other distinctions.

An alternative to the GDP as a measure of well-being, this report takes a dramatically different approach to assessing the state’s performance. Instead of relying on traditional economic analysis, Measure of America’s A Portrait of California uses the human development approach to tell us how people are doing. Three dimensions—a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living—are examined in detail and presented along a simple ten-point scale: the American Human Development (HD) Index.

A Portrait of California, 2014-15, is the newest report that measures how Californians are doing in health, education and income—the building blocks of a decent life and the core focus areas of United Way's community impact work.  The newest report, made available on December 9, 2014, features an interactive map, individual County Profiles, or you can download the entire PDF report.

Once you've seen A Portrait of California, find out how you match up using The Well-O-Meter(TM). You can get a general sense of your own human development thanks to this tool by Measure of America.

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Nonprofit Economic Impact Study

Nonprofit corporations contribute to the quality of life for all SLO County residents in many visible and invisible ways. Though less tangible, the nonprofit sector is also an ever-evolving, widely diverse force generating significant economic benefit and stability for local residents. In 2005, United Way of SLO County partnered with PG&E and the UCSB Economic Forecast Project to bring the SLO County Nonprofit Economic Impact Study to life to show local government, businesses, individuals and even nonprofits just how large a force it is. The resulting report documents the contributions of local nonprofit public benefit corporations to the economic health and social well-being of SLO County citizens through employment, revenue generation, purchasing power, service provision and volunteer engagement. Click here to view the full report: Economic Impact of Nonprofit Corporations: San Luis Obispo County, California 2005.

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On January 26, 2011, 3,774 homeless individuals were counted in San Luis Obispo County. Of these, 1,847 (49%) were children under 18 years of age. Homelessness continues to be a problem in many communities, and despite the reputation for having the happiest city in America, San Luis Obispo County is far from immune. The desire to better understand the reasons for homelessness and generate ways to alleviate the issue locally led to the first “point-in-time” count in 2005, which has since been repeated in 2009 and 2011. The 2011 Homeless Enumeration Report is the result of a collaborative effort between Cal Poly, Community Action Partnership, the County of San Luis Obispo and over one hundred volunteers and stakeholders. The Homeless Services Oversight Council, which is responsible for coordination of homeless services in the county, continues to work toward implementing the “Path to a Home: San Luis Obispo Countywide 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness.”

Opportunities to Help the Homeless in Our County

Welcome Home Kit Drive

The 50 Now Project is a program to house the top 50 most vulnerable, chronically homeless people throughout SLO County. The Welcome Home Kit Drive will help make their future homes more cozy and ensure that newly housed have what they need to make their house a home.

YOU CAN HELP! This is a great project for your family, friends and coworkers during the holidays! Suggested items: toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, pots, pans, sponges, mop, broom, dustpan, laundry detergent, laundry basket, roll of quarters, plates, silverware, etc. We are collecting individual items December 2, 2014 - January 9, 2015.

Print the Welcome Home Drive Flyer

2015 Homeless Enumeration

This January, you have a chance to help give a voice to individuals experiencing homelessness in our community! On a single morning on January 26, 2015, volunteers will canvas every area of the County and ensure the homeless population is accurately counted. This data is used locally to identify service needs and gaps and also to secure Federal HUD funding that helps provide needed homeless services in our County.

Volunteer Commitment and Responsibility:

  • Attending a 1 hour training prior to count day
  • Give 4-6 hours of your  time on January 26nd, 2015, beginning at daybreak (training is recommended but optional – dates to be determined and communicated via email or phone)
  • Understand and be sensitive to the population you count and those you work with on count day
  • Use this link and sign up to volunteer: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SanLuisObispo2015VounteerRegistration  or call 877-728-4545

Healthy City

Healthy City is California's information and action resource for service referrals and social change. HealthyCity.org provides data and mapping tools to help you build a better community. The Healthy City team also partners directly with organizations to develop research strategies and web tools that fuel social change.

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