After getting its state funding cut 65 percent, the Pacific Pride Foundation, which provides services to the HIV/AIDS and LGBT communities of Santa Barbara County, is working to rebuild itself.
The future was bleak at the town-hall meeting in August. PPF immediately cut its staff by more than half and prepared to cancel some of its vital HIV/AIDS services.
A few months later, executive director David Selberg sounds more hopeful. Although staff and service levels are low, the program has managed to keep its Santa Barbara and Santa Maria offices and food pantries open.
“Our landlord up there cut our rent for this fiscal year by two-thirds just to help us through this difficult year,” Selberg said.
Midsize counties such as Santa Barbara had HIV/AIDS funding cut to 35 percent, while larger counties maintained 70 percent to 75 percent of funding, Selberg said.
Through a contract with the county and massive fundraising, PPF has managed to stay afloat.
For HIV/AIDS testing, it has become a subcontractor with Santa Barbara County and is the primary care and treatment program in the county.
“The county provides the materials and we handle the personnel,” staff member Colette Schabram said.
Selberg has been meeting with the county to discuss funds for PPF. In the August meeting, it was estimated that about $250,000 was needed to maintain the program’s core services. He also hopes Sacramento allocates more than 35 percent of funding, which most likely would trickle down through the county Public Health Department to PPF and other services.
County supervisors, especially 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf, already have expressed strong support for the program and for maintaining its current case management, Selberg said. For 590 clients, there are 2.25 case management positions, down from six before the cuts.
Case managers are the ones interacting with the clients and doing outreach, he said. The organization is also behind AIDS education as a preventive measure.
The client population includes many Latinos in the North County, gays and those struggling with mental illness or substance abuse.
The organization’s gay and lesbian programs are untouched by state cuts, as they’re mainly funded by donors and foundations.
PPF offers youth groups, counseling, therapy and community events, including a phone bank aimed at Maine voters to encourage marriage equality with a no vote on that state’s equivalent of California’s Proposition 8, which was approved by voters but is facing legal challenges.
Amid the jarring state cuts, a massive fundraising effort began, and the goal for the annual AIDS Walk was an unprecedented $100,000.
Last month’s walk had 650 participants and has raised $94,000, with more checks coming in every day. One donor, Kevin Harder, promised to match the raised amount if it reached the goal.
The Prime Timers Central Coast in Santa Barbara, a social group, raised $20,000 among the group, two members of which — John Gathercole and Claude Raffin — matched the team’s total donations.
Cox Communications and a small family foundation both made matching donations of $5,000.
Not only did the AIDS Walk raise more than ever before, but costs were trimmed as well. Printing and advertising costs were cut, and T-shirts were paid for or made by participants instead of being handed out for free.
The PPF is conscious of operating on less money, said Schabram, the AIDS Walk coordinator.
“We weren’t sure for a while, right around that town-hall meeting time, when we were going to hit the bottom,” Selberg said. “It’s like, OK, we’re free falling. Are we going to have any AIDS programs?”
It hit bottom, and after signing contracts with the county and a successful AIDS Walk, officials feel a lot better.
“We thought, this is the worst-case scenario,” Selberg said. “Now we’ll start rebuilding our program.”
AIDS/HIV testing for surrounding counties has taken huge cuts as well, and Ventura’s Rainbow Alliance lost $400,000 in state funds for those programs as of Oct. 8.
“We’re probably still the largest HIV/AIDS program between San Francisco and Los Angeles because so many other programs weren’t able to sustain themselves at all, which is quite a commentary,” Selberg said.
— Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.