Formerly homeless women have new abode
There are still some finishing touches to be made, but a newly renovated house on East Sola Street will be ready this week for seven formerly homeless women.
The historic Santa Barbara property is named Heath House, in honor of the late Alice Health, a former public health worker in the community who founded the home in 1989 for men and women dying from HIV/AIDS.
In 2020, People’s Self-Help Housing purchased the building, which had been vacant, with plans for an extensive restoration and rehabilitation.
The two-story, 2,500 square-foot home has seven bedrooms, five bathrooms, multiple common areas, and a shared kitchen and dining room.
“Because it is a single unit and has the seven bedrooms, we decided it would be ideal to bring in homeless women as tenants,” said Morgen Benevedo, executive vice president of PSHH. “Heath House is truly one-of-a-kind, and we look forward to welcoming our new residents. Our mission is to provide affordable housing, especially for the homeless. Heath House is a perfect example of fulfilling this mission.”
Founded in 1970, PSHH serves low-income households, working families, seniors, farmworkers, veterans, those living with disabilities and the formerly homeless in Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties.
At Heath House, PSHH will also provide on-site supportive services, including case management, counseling, education programs and compassionate property management — all free of charge for the residents.
“We’re addressing the elements that made them homeless in the first place,” said Ken Trigueiro, CEO and president of Peoples’ Self-Help Housing. “We have several licensed clinical social workers on our staff who will take a case-management approach with an initial assessment to see what led the women to that point. We aim to understand that, help create a plan to address those things and create some level of motivation, accountability and counseling along the way.”
Applicants for the home are referred to by the Coordinated Entry System, a county program that assists the homeless by connecting them with helpful services, especially housing, according to Mr. Benevedo.
“There is no age range, and they can come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. There is no time limit on how long they can stay at Heath House,” he told the News-Press. “We’re happy to have them, along with their children if necessary.”
Assisting with initial funding for the project were the Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara County, the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara, the city of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County and the state government.
“At the end of 2020, generous community donations of more than $34,000 were raised for furnishings, bedding and personal items, and other household essentials for the new residents,” said Mr. Benevedo. “Remaining donations are needed to complete the landscaping, provide a community garden and to add the final finishing touches in the restful outdoor areas.”
“This kind of housing is such a critical need in Santa Barbara. It’s a pretty novel situation — unoccupied properties aren’t just sitting around,” added Mr. Trigueiro. “That’s why this one is super special, and it’s a real achievement of our mission.”