Affordable sanctuary for seniors celebrates first anniversary
In a year shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic and local affordable housing challenges for low-income seniors, the Housing Authority City of Santa Barbara had something to celebrate with the residents of Gardens on Hope.
Recently, they joined together to mark the first-year anniversary of this residential complex, designed for seniors and located at 251 S. Hope Ave. The celebration was hosted by HACSB, Garden Court Inc. and The Parsons Group, agencies that collaborated in the conception and subsequent development of this housing development.
The GOH property was decorated for the occasion, which included a barbecue lunch prepared by the GOH staff. Three flavors of ice cream donated by Rori’s Creamery in Montecito were served for dessert.
The residents presented thank-you cards, potted plants and bouquets of flowers to the GOH staff to acknowledge their hard work to provide them with a comfortable place to call home.
The day was capped off with a guitar performance by a resident and a sing-along. The GOH residents and staff also thanked Summer and Theresa Dolotta from the National Charity League for their support in making the anniversary celebration a success.
“We opened the doors to Gardens on Hope last year at the beginning of the statewide COVID lockdown,” said Rob Fredericks, HACSB executive director and CEO. “At that time, a grand opening celebration wasn’t appropriate, given the circumstances and out of an abundance of caution and safety for our new senior residents, some with frail health.
“Despite the restrictions placed on us, we were successful with moving residents into their new homes. It went flawlessly, thanks to our partners at The Parsons Group and the GOH team, led by Executive Director Charlene Fletcher. As a fifth-generation Santa Barbaran with a keen interest in improving life for seniors who are part of the fabric of our community, Charlene, along with her staff, worked hard to ensure that their clients have peace and security so that they can enjoy their life. Since quarantine restrictions have lessened, we felt now was the time to celebrate our one-year anniversary and the success of this beautiful and much-needed communal living facility.”
Ms. Fletcher shared some of the challenges she and her team faced in getting the property up and running such as arranging for contract work during shut-down and equipment issues and staffing the property while a stay-at-home order was in place.
“Thirty percent of the residents came from shelters and homelessness in the middle of the pandemic. Residents were quarantined for 14 days upon arrival, and move-ins were separately scheduled, as all possessions had to be left at the front door,” she said. “GOH staff set up the apartments and moved belongings in for residents. Staff also individually packaged and delivered meal items to residents three times per day. In addition, the team sanitized the facility multiple times per day and ensured that everyone complied with the mandatory mask mandate and safe distancing.”
Despite the challenges of opening a property this size in the middle of a pandemic, Ms. Fletcher said she was thrilled by the achievements made by the GOH team, residents, HACSB and Parsons Group over the first year of the facility’s operation.
“Our community is referred to by our residents as ‘their family.’ They constantly come by to express how much they appreciate this incredible opportunity and just how happy they are here at GOH. Some have expressed that they ‘probably would not be here today’ had it not been for moving into GOH. To be a part of such an amazing resource in our community, to be able to offer stable, affordable and safe housing for so many of our local seniors, is priceless,” she said, adding, “The day was filled with laughter and appreciation, so deserved after an unprecedented year!”
GOH is affordable, service-enhanced, independent-living housing composed of 89 studio units for eligible seniors 62 and older. It is located on a 1.75-acre lot and modeled after Garden Court, a 98-unit development by HACSB, located on De La Vina St. All units are subsidized with Project-Based Housing Choice Vouchers, making rent affordable at 30% of residents’ income.