Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model title=
Nine out of the 10 people who lived at this homeless camp at the Garden Street offramp -- where 20,000 pounds of material was removed -- are now receiving support and services at the Rose Garden Inn. | Credit: City of Santa Barbara
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This story was originally published by the Santa Barbara Independent and is reproduced here in partnership with Edhat.


By Tyler Hayden of The Independent

Thus far, the pilot program to relocate dozens of Santa Barbara’s homeless residents from fire-prone encampments to an upper State Street motel has been “remarkably successful,” said Councilmember Kristen Sneddon in a sentiment echoed by her colleagues Tuesday. But there was also consensus among the council that there is still much more work to be done to help the unhoused find stable living space off the street.

Since June, when the city enacted the 120-day, $1.6 million program for temporary “bridge housing” at the Rose Garden Inn, crews have removed a mountainous 30 tons of material from six abated camps ― where 18 fires were reported in the month of May alone ― and enticed 54 people to the motel. No fires have occurred since.

At the Inn, clients are receiving a host of wrap-around services, including mental-health care provided by Cottage Hospital staff, substance-abuse treatment, and employment counseling. The program has proven so popular among the homeless community that a handful of individuals surreptitiously moved into the cleared-out camps in hopes of then being relocated to the motel.

The whole point of the endeavor is to transition people to permanent housing, explained René Eyerly, who was recently appointed interim assistant city administrator. Six have secured housing vouchers. Another six have found jobs. But the number of local property owners and managers willing to accept the vouchers is “extremely limited,” said Eyerly. More options are “desperately needed” if the program is to succeed in the long term, she said.

Most of the 215 available vouchers must be redeemed within city limits as a condition of their funding, Eyerly explained. Case managers, however, get creative where and when they can, said Brad Fieldhouse with City Net, the nonprofit driving the overall effort. One particular client was recently reunited with his family in Alaska.

Public safety in the neighborhoods surrounding the Rose Garden Inn was a concern among residents when the program was first announced. But those worries haven’t been borne out, said Police Chief Barney Melekian. The partnership between his department and City Net ― which provides 24-hour security at the site, including daily patrols up and down the street ― has been “truly outstanding,” he said. 

The slight increase in petty thefts and nuisance behavior nearby is a trend taking place across the city, Melekian explained, and the spike in serious crime at the location predicted by some hasn’t taken place. Noticeably, no residents spoke out during the public comment portion of the meeting. “That’s a good sign,” said Sneddon.

Councilmember Eric Friedman, who represents the district, also commended City Net. But he did note new congregations of homeless people in the parking lot behind the AAA office up the block, as well as the large lot that connects Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Fieldhouse and Melekian promised to look into it. 

Eyerly acknowledged that while the six fire-prone camps beside Highway 101 and the railroad tracks are now gone, staff have observed new encampments cropping up in other parts of the city, including along creeks. “This is frustrating to the community as each neighborhood feels the impact directly, so addressing sites in one area is not satisfying to another,” she said. 

Looking ahead, the council will consider next month whether to extend the pilot program, which is set to expire in November. Representatives of Santa Barbara’s existing homeless facilities ― PATH, Rescue Mission, and the Salvation Army ― will be on hand at that meeting to discuss their respective roles in chipping away at the issue. Councilmember Michael Jordan said he was eager to ask PATH why 100 of their 200 beds remain unused.

City staff will also be applying for more of the $2.75 billion in state housing funding that financed the initiative when grant applications are due in January. An existing City Hall staff position will be retooled to focus exclusively on homeless-reduction efforts, as well. Meanwhile, the county is looking at constructing 32 micro-units on downtown property it owns.

The bridge model clearly works, Friedman said. “We’re really getting somewhere.” But it’s only the first step in finding permanent homes for the people who need them, he emphasized. “We have a lot more work to do.” Mayor Cathy Murillo agreed. “When it comes down to it, we just need more housing for these folks.

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sbdude Sep 17, 2021 01:09 PM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

"...a handful of individuals surreptitiously moved into the cleared-out camps..."
"...staff have observed new encampments cropping up in other parts of the city, including along creeks..."

What they are doing may be great, but they are not really solving the problem.

fitz Sep 17, 2021 01:31 PM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

Many more homeless now in the area near the Rose Garden. More homeless moving up there to creeks and areas behind the stores. They want to be near their buddies in the Rose Garden. Most bus shelters in the area are fully occupied during the day up there. The City needs to have full time monitoring in adjacent areas to prevent more fire hazards in the bushes and the sidewalks safe for families, residents, and pedestrians.

PitMix Sep 17, 2021 01:42 PM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

They should figure out the number of homeless that we have to help by share of County Population, and then bill the Federal Government for the money we use to help any number above that. Last time I calculated it, our share was about 700 people, yet there are many more than that in our County. This is a National problem, right? What does Mr. Carbajal say about that?

Seabird Sep 18, 2021 11:09 AM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

@Duke, I don't agree it's a "California" problem. I live near Solvang, and I have never seen ONE homeless person downtown. It's a Santa Barbara problem, along with other cities with terrible leadership.

Byzantium Sep 17, 2021 09:08 PM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

........"The slight increase in petty thefts and nuisance behavior nearby is a trend taking place across the city"............ It is not a trend, when this part of town never had people living in allies and flopped out on the sidewalks. It is new blight and directly related to the latest open door SB is providing, with no upper limits or end of city budget demands. How many times do we get requests for housing on edhat from working adults who intend to contribute to this community and they can find nothing and are faced with moving to outlying areas. Yet, we are now told we have to house non-contributing vagrants in any remaining precious city housing units? There was nothing cute about the warning vagrants are already exploiting this misguided largess and intentionally setting up illegal camps just so they can get on the Homeless Inc gravy train. You need a new plan, Homeless Inc. Sneddon, this is an issue that will make or break your own re-election campaign. Try harder.

homeboy7 Sep 18, 2021 08:10 AM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

It will certainly require a national solution. A Santa Barbara solution will only make the problem worse - current homeless will get housing that could be used for low income members of the workforce, and vacated camp sites will eventually get populated by others. A national solution requires something like a UBI (universal basic income). The the homeless (or their appointed advocates) can use those funds to deal with housing. They might choose a solution as others on a fixed income: move somewhere less expensive.

SBTownie Sep 18, 2021 10:15 AM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

Absolutely agree. It makes my blood boil that a thousand homeless people (95% of whom are addicts and need institutionalization) will be receiving vouchers for SB City when those homes should go to THE CRUCIAL WORKFORCE POPULATION.

citizenreader Sep 18, 2021 09:12 AM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

“Public safety in the neighborhoods surrounding the Rose Garden Inn was a concern among residents when the program was first announced. But those worries haven’t been borne out, said Police Chief Barney Melekian..”
I happen to disagree with this assessment by Police Chief Melekian. I live in San Roque above the Rose Garden Inn and I have personally been accosted in my own driveway by a resident of the Rose Garden Inn. Next Door San Roque is full of accounts of attempted break-ins, trespassing, harassment and theft.

SBTownie Sep 18, 2021 10:16 AM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

Totally. I don't even live around there but pass it once or twice a week on State and I have seen cop cars swarming several times and some guys doing drugs and exchanging "things" on the dirt patch just behind the motel.

dukemunson Sep 18, 2021 09:27 AM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

The trouble is, all these local housing vouchers going to homeless instead of low income workers drives up the rent prices and makes it even harder for people actually working to afford to live here. In essence we’re failing to solve a problem, and in/through that failure we are exacerbating the problem of people who actually work and contribute here being able to live here.

James B Sep 18, 2021 09:32 AM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

"Remarkably successful " said councilmember Kristen Snowdenn. 100 % untrue. The inside scoop from those in the know say there are lots of problems at these locations (Rose Garden & Orange Tree) that are hidden from public view. Very little is being accomplished other than giving these people a break from the jungle for 6 months.

SBTownie Sep 18, 2021 10:06 AM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

I drive by Rose a lot and have twice seen numerous cop cars there, and once witnessed two guys smoking drugs (could have been weed but it certainly wasn't a joint, and seemed sketchier) on the strip of lot just past it.

SBTownie Sep 18, 2021 10:13 AM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

If I am doing my math right, this costs 1.6 million for 4 months for ~50 people. That puts this program alone at an annual cost of 4.8 million for 50 people. So if we have 1000 homeless people, that is $4,800,000 x 20 = $96,000,000 FOR THE CITY OF SANTA BARBARA ALONE. IS THIS A JOKE?

If we split the cost evenly among 100k residents of the city, that's $960 COST PER EVERY SB CITY RESIDENT.

THIS IS NOT A SOLUTION.

SBTownie Sep 18, 2021 10:21 AM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

Put another way, that brings the cost per head to $96,000 A YEAR. That is far more than most people who are struggling to live here doing essential jobs make.

For that cost could buy each of these people a home in half of the country and send them there and give them $25k in cash to get set up and pay their own way for the next year or so.

Transparent Sep 18, 2021 12:32 PM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

SBTownie -- You are absolutely right. Again and again we are punished for just how dumb we are as a society, complete unaware or incapable of analyzing policy or judgement from leaders.

What also deserves to be in all-caps is how many folks who sit in meetings calling each other "honorable so and so" or "madam blah blah blah" and then leave us with results like this. We are living in an idiocracy.

Maybe it has something to do with ~2/3 of our kids graduating high school functionally illiterate in basic math (below very very low standards). Given that fact, it follows quite logically that our public sphere lacks any basic budgeting insight.

TLDR: You are quite right. The assertion that this is a "success" is a complete farce... apolitically obvious to anyone able to divide numbers.

a-1631994292 Sep 18, 2021 12:44 PM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

Of course this isn't perfect, but it does help some people for the short term and hopefully we'll see it for the longer term. I know two people who work the homeless, at Pathpoint and as a counselor, and they have seen a positive transformation in several of the clients due to the temporary housing.

Byzantium Sep 18, 2021 05:03 PM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) passed shortly after ACLU had state care institutions shut down, and it became obvious there remained an unmet need. So voters passed this "tax the rich" ballot initiative several decades ago - currently raises $2 billion a year for mental health services of this previously institutionalized population. This is one of the primary Homeless Inc funding resources and we just learned how this money can be spent - a few hundred dollars for the mentally-impaired/addict/ vagrant's motel room, and thousands of dollars for the "wrap around" Homeless Inc staffers. Upper State Street is definitely getting visibly trashed since this Rose Garden motel operation started. Officials in Santa Barbara, including affected city council district reps Sneddon andFriedman, need to take their blinders off and stop catering only to Homeless Inc, and care more about the blight they are now inflicting on this part of town too.

Transparent Sep 20, 2021 01:02 PM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

@Pitmix -- I dunno if I'd agree with 'Olde Mann' if they elaborated their idea(s), but I'm pretty sure "stop giving them money" is more likely to mean not giving them more and more than a wish for MadMax-style total anarchy.

You can pretend it means eliminate all govt for pretend internet points... proceed straight to total anarchy. Maybe indeed that's what a crazy Olde Mann has in mind, but not likely. Not listening to folks giving the benefit of the doubt, intentionally interpreting any divergent opinion to a caricatured extreme... these are real problems we've got going on in our discourse these days.

PitMix Sep 20, 2021 03:00 PM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

Trans, I just respond to what people write. "We need to stop giving them money." Which means police, fire, roads, utilities, military, post office.

I'm not going to spend any time rephrasing crazy stuff into sentences that make more sense and are more workable- that is the job the writer is supposed to do.

Let me know if you have to find a silver lining in anything I have written.

Transparent Sep 20, 2021 09:18 PM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

@PitMix... pretty sure I already did find agreement with you generously already, namely that anyone actually wanting your strawmanned zero-funding for anything anarchy is pretty well crazy. :) I also ceded pretty bluntly that we do, indeed sadly, have more than a few people that crazy out there.

Transparent Sep 20, 2021 09:18 PM
Much Love for Santa Barbara’s ‘Bridge Housing’ Model

@PitMix... pretty sure I already did find agreement with you generously already, namely that anyone actually wanting your strawmanned zero-funding for anything anarchy is pretty well crazy. :) I also ceded pretty bluntly that we do, indeed sadly, have more than a few people that crazy out there.

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