DignityMoves announced the DignityNOW Santa Barbara County initiative this week to create sufficient interim housing for unsheltered, homeless individuals.
On Tuesday, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors unanimously supported the updated Community Action Plan, which calls for the development of several DignityMoves villages totaling approximately 437 beds, more than closing the existing shelter gap of 432 beds countywide.
The 2018 Santa Barbara County Community Action Plan to End Homelessness identified the need for an additional 563 interim shelter beds across the county. Three years later, the 2021 status report showed progress towards that goal, but 432 beds are still needed.
Around that time, the county began talking with DignityMoves about how its model might accelerate progress toward that goal.
In February 2022, DignityMoves started construction on a 34-room community in downtown Santa Barbara in partnership with Santa Barbara County and Good Samaritan Shelters.
Completed in less than six months, the community has been fully occupied since inception with a waiting list of more than 100 people, according to DignityMoves, which added it has been positively embraced by neighbors and local businesses. With the help of Good Samaritan’s intensive supportive services, numerous residents have found jobs, enrolled in programs, and/or moved into permanent housing, according to DignityMoves.
DignityMoves’ interim supportive housing is different from traditional shelters because everyone gets their own room, with a door that locks. Designed for emergency housing building codes, the prefabricated housing is quickly assembled and cost-effective, according to DignityMoves.
Each cabin unit has a bed, a desk, a chair, heating and air conditioning, a window and privacy. The communities also include shared bathroom and shower facilities, dining buildings, patio decks, computer labs, community gardens, pet areas and staff offices.
The housing is paired with wrap-around social services, providing the residents an opportunity to get off the streets and take steps to improve their lives to find permanent housing and employment, according to DignityMoves.
The success of this first DignityMoves program has spurred the county Board of Supervisors to identify several additional county-owned sites for DignityMoves villages across the county.
“The Board of Supervisors is committed to making a tangible impact on homelessness within the county by blending critical support services with dignified housing,” Terri Maus-Nisich, assistant Santa Barbara County executive officer, said in a news release. “DignityMoves is a critical partner in sheltering the homeless with its innovative, nimble and affordable housing model. DignityMoves is that missing piece of the puzzle, which provides a real opportunity to shelter and serve the most vulnerable in our communities.”
The next community in the DignityNOW Santa Barbara initiative is already under way in Santa Maria.
The 94-room Hope Village will host three different specialized programs: 11 of the rooms will be operated by Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley, an organization specializing in the needs of transitional age youth between 18 to 24, many of whom are leaving the foster care system.
In collaboration with Dignity Health’s Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria, 30 of the rooms will be reserved for individuals experiencing homelessness who have acute medical conditions or other complex needs and require care in a safe environment.
The remaining rooms will be focused on serving residents experiencing homelessness within Santa Maria, operated by Good Samaritan Shelter. Hope Village is slated to open to residents by August.