Upper State Street inn could house up to 50 individuals
The city of Santa Barbara’s nonprofit partner, City Net, negotiated terms and secured a lease of the Rose Garden Inn on upper State Street to temporarily house up to 50 homeless individuals.
Starting July 5, a progressive rollout of rooms will become available on the property — located in the 3000 block of State Street — and they will remain available for 120 days.
The master lease agreement is pending approval of the Santa Barbara City Council, which is expected to come today because the council directed City Net to secure the agreement. The push for a temporary shelter followed the Loma Fire on the Mesa back in May and numerous fires that have sparked in homeless encampments.
The City Council called for action due to the number of homeless encampments located in high-fire prone areas, as well as the city’s susceptibility to wildfires during the severe drought and summer months. While city staff suggested a safe, secure encampment in a commuter lot, the council agreed that a hotel or motel would be the best option for long-term solutions.
“The council has been supportive of finding places to move our unhoused residents so that the fire-prone camps can be cleared and vegetation removed, and the benefit to these individuals is that they will get shelter, support and services, and be helped on the path to transitional or permanent housing,” Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo told the News-Press ahead of today’s anticipated decision. “Having a room with a decent bed and shower and with case management assistance will help people with their challenges such as needing mental health services or treatment for substance abuse, or getting document-ready so they can enter a program, like housing for war veterans or Salvation Army, or be reunited with family or friends that can give them help.”
According to Brad Fieldhouse, the executive director of City Net, the negotiated terms require security onsite with no external guests allowed on the property. Rose Garden Inn will not be a lockdown facility — people are free to come and go, but must check in with staff.
City Net will provide a shuttle van to transport individuals to and from their destinations.
Meals will be provided for the guests, along with case management and other services they may need. If any of the guests show up to the property inebriated or break any other terms of the agreement, they will be disqualified from the site.
“In general, lots of people do that, whether they’re housed or not, but it would not be a significant, ongoing problem,” Mr. Fieldhouse told the News-Press regarding disqualifications. “Once they find out that this is workable with them and think, ‘Wow, this is an incredible opportunity for me to get the support I need if housing is my game plan,’ they fight to keep this option available since it’s better than living in the tents on the side of the freeway.”
He said City Net has signed more than 15 master leases with hotels in the county for the specific purpose of providing temporary housing for homeless populations, especially during the pandemic. Some business owners in the area and local residents pushed back against master leasing a hotel in their neighborhood during public comment in previous City Council meetings.
Jeff Shaffer, director of initiatives for SB ACT, told the News-Press that the service providers are starting to meet every other week to discuss their regional action plan. Anyone can join the meetings, including business owners and residents who want to express their concerns, or just learn about the progress in housing the homeless population.
“We want to remind the community that this is an emergency fire action,” he said. “…They (City Net) have run these (master lease shelters) before. There’s going to be enough security and presence to lessen the impacts on the neighborhood.”
The proposed costs for the master lease agreement with Rose Garden Inn for 120 days is $1.6 million, according to the staff report. Mr. Fieldhouse said that because it takes several contacts between City Net staff and the homeless individuals to get them to agree to relocating, he expects the property to reach full capacity in early to mid-August.
“The reality is that there’s not enough places for individuals to go,” Mr. Fieldhouse said. “…The good news is, this utilizes existing infrastructure within the city and takes advantage of that … It’s dignified because it gives people their own space and they become part of a motel community in that sense.
“It can go back to being used as a motel once, hopefully, we’ve housed most, if not all, of the individuals tied to these projects.”
The city of Santa Barbara, City Net and SB ACT are all working in conjunction to develop a post-pilot/one-year plan after the 120-day period. The plan would be to find permanent housing for the individuals placed in this temporary housing at Rose Garden Inn. Mr. Shaffer said the top priorities being discussed for the plan include ensuring document-readiness, stabilization and access to mental health services to find housing and, lastly, “creating an atmosphere of dignity and inclusion.”
“We want them to know the community is behind them in this process,” Mr. Shaffer said. “I’ve learned that when people on the streets feel fully supported and have the backing that we want what’s best for them, they tend to do better.
“We are working really hard, and we believe that the county, city, city staff and everyone aligning toward the best possible outcomes is what’s needed. There’s no silver bullet for this.”
Today’s City Council meeting will start at 2 p.m. It can be viewed on City TV Channel 18 or streamed live at www.santabarbaraca.gov/cap.