City of Santa Barbara to get $1.2M in federal funds to house homeless
Santa Barbara County officially received $3 million in funds from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden.
Of the $5 billion in funding for emergency housing vouchers to be distributed nationwide to house the homeless, $3 million is headed to the county, and $1.2 million of that is going directly to the city of Santa Barbara.
Vouchers will be distributed countywide by the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara and citywide by the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara.
“Even before the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in homelessness across the cohorts — whether we’re talking single individuals, families, the elderly population — we’ve seen an increase across the board there,” Rob Fredericks, the executive director and CEO of the city’s Housing Authority, told the News-Press Friday. “And we’ve even seen an increase through the pandemic, with these encampments along the roadways that are dangerous and life threatening, not only to the individuals that are camping there but also to the surrounding community.”
The vouchers are intended for individuals and families who are homeless; at risk of homelessness; fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, violence during dating, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking; recently homeless; or have a high risk of housing instability.
Santa Barbara’s Housing Authority received 89 vouchers to issue to 89 households, based on the cost of the vouchers and the fair market rent.
This funding allows for tenants to pay 30% of their income for contract rent to the landlord, and the rest of the rent would be paid directly to the landlord from the Housing Authority if needed.
“If the resident’s income is zero dollars, then the Housing Authority is paying all of the rent through the voucher,” Mr. Fredericks said.
In addition, because the affected families are in such great need, the program will provide administrative fees to support housing authorities in addressing barriers to housing for homeless individuals. This includes landlord engagement, security deposits and housing navigation.
The landlord incentives include: a $1,500 signing bonus for each voucher leased up; up to $2,000 in protection insurance for each lease; one month’s security deposit provided for each lease; and the county’s provision of three years of supportive services for each client leased.
“We think the incentives are going to be really important to help the landlord community … feel comfortable with renting to these clients as well as knowing there’s going to be wraparound services available,” the Housing Authority CEO said.
The vouchers became available July 1, and Mr. Fredericks said the Housing Authority just had a kickoff meeting with service providers on Thursday with 66 people on the call that will provide outreach throughout the community.
He said they will go out to encampments and other locations to get clients started with the coordinated entry system, where they can then assist clients in applying online.
Next steps include an eligibility review, which requires clients to be low-income and to undergo a criminal history verification. Sex offenders or any household that’s been evicted and prosecuted for selling or using methamphetamine will not be eligible for a voucher.
“There’s not a hard ‘no’ on the criminal background check, because we know a lot of the folks have various citations because they don’t have a place to live,” Mr. Fredericks said. “Some are cited for trespassing or just trying to find a place to lay their head at night, and for us, that’s not a hard ‘no.’ We try to screen individuals rather than screen out — if we can provide a home for them through these vouchers, they can then begin to improve their lives.”
The Housing Authority executive director also stressed the emphasis on the wraparound services being provided to the voucher holders. He said the assistance doesn’t stop once clients get a roof over their heads. It extends to ensuring food security, education assistance, getting a job, stabilizing medical conditions and more.
To learn more about the emergency housing vouchers, or for any landlords interested in partnering with the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org for the city’s Housing Authority or email@example.com for the county’s Housing Authority.
“No one wants to see homelessness in their community. I think we can all agree that the only solution to homelessness is a home,” Mr. Fredericks said. “Folks that live on the streets have a much shorter life expectancy than people that have a home due to increased health risks. If we can provide a home to people, not only providing security for the encompassing community but also for the folks that are having to suffer through homelessness, it’s a win-win from our perspective.”email: firstname.lastname@example.org