Rose Garden Inn residents struggle to find permanent housing
Santa Barbara City Council will decide whether to extend the safe-shelter program for residents of fire-prone encampments during its meeting Tuesday. The program is set to expire Nov. 1.
The City Council received an update on the program during its Sept. 14 meeting. The safe-shelter program was deemed a success by the city for its ability to reach homeless people and attain housing vouchers – but few participants have been able to find permanent housing.
Currently, 40 formerly homeless people reside in the Rose Garden Inn in the Upper State neighborhood. The city’s nonprofit partner City Net has been operating the master lease and providing wraparound services since July 5 at a $1.6 million price tag.
The Council has three options: extend the program for 30 days at a cost of $414,329, extend 90 days for $1,242,987 or let the contract expire.
The funding would come from Measure C, a source of income that comes from sales tax.
If the contract expires, City Net risks losing the progress it has made with the 40 Rose Garden Inn residents.
Of those 40 participants, nine have housing vouchers in hand, 16 are in progress and 15 have the identification needed to obtain housing.
But City Net is struggling to find available housing that will accept the vouchers.
The Housing Authority has issued 89 Emergency Housing Vouchers this period, but only 22 have been applied to leases. The Housing Authority is trying to incentivize landlords to sign leases with vouchers.
René Eyerly, acting sustainability and resilience co-director, told the City Council the program stopped cleaning up encampments and taking in residents when staff realized permanent housing was a problem.
“We have a front loading problem,” councilmember Mike Jordan said in his comments. “We’ve got 50 people in a motel, and we don’t have the next step in housing ready for them right now if they elect to go.”
The city is looking for ways to create more housing for formerly homeless people.
The city and Santa Barbara County are partnering in a project called Dignity Moves. It plans to establish 33 modular homes on county property for three years.
The city is prioritizing people in high need who live downtown and along the waterfront for Dignity Moves.
The city is working on an application for a HomeKey grant through the State, which funds master leases and other innovative housing ideas.
Staff are also looking at a grant program through the State that targets encampments of 50 people or more, a size that puts smaller cities at a disadvantage. Smaller projects will also be awarded funds.
The city has been allocated $1.8 million in HOME American Rescue Plan funds that can be used widely. Staff are still strategizing the best use for this money.
The state budget also allocates $2.5 million to Santa Barbara County for homeless housing and mental health services. The Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County Continuum of Care received $2.7 million.
The safe-shelter program is a pilot that can be used to secure grants and launch a permanent bridge-housing program in Santa Barbara. The city has large goals, but it first has to coordinate next steps for the 40 current participants.
The City Council will discuss its options and receive updates from local shelters.
The meeting begins at 2 p.m. Tuesday. It will be broadcast live on City TV Channel 18 and online at santabarbaraca.gov/cap.
To join the virtual meeting and make a public comment, go to attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7544011379969868045.