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Casa Esperanza Shelter Moving Forward on Merger with People Assisting The Homeless

With the consolidation to begin July 1, officials seek assurances from the Santa Barbara council that the city's rent agreements and other contracts will be honored

People Assisting The Homeless CEO Joel Roberts speaks before the Santa Barbara council on Tuesday. PATH soon will be merging with the city’s Casa Esperanza homeless shelter.
People Assisting The Homeless CEO Joel Roberts speaks before the Santa Barbara council on Tuesday. PATH soon will be merging with the city’s Casa Esperanza homeless shelter. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

A merger is imminent between a local shelter and a regional organization that works to house thousands of homeless people each year, a move that its proponents say will help keep the shelter on a successful path.

Casa Esperanza, at 816 Cacique St., a 100-bed shelter that expands to 200 beds in the winter, soon will be merging with, People Assisting The Homeless, or PATH.

PATH is a 30-year-old organization that has facilities in 22 cities from San Diego to San Luis Obispo.

The merger between the two organizations is expected to begin July 1, and will begin to develop a local board of directors.

On Tuesday, PATH CEO Joel Roberts and Casa officials Jessica Wishan and Joe Tumbler came before the council to ask for assurances that the city's rent agreement and other contracts would be assigned to them once the merger is complete.

The council passed the item 6-0, with Mayor Helene Schneider absent.

Last fall, the council received a report on the shelter, and they reported at that time that they were in negotiations with PATH.  

They also reported that they were refinancing their mortgage and making other financial improvements, according to Sue Gray, community development business manager for the city.

The city has been assured that no changes will occur to services at the 100-bed sobriety based center once the merger is complete.

Casa Esperanza Managing Director Jessica Wishan and Acting Director Joe Tumbler listen as PATH CEO Joel Roberts speaks Tuesday. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

PATH will be able to provide technical expertise in grant writing and program management, Gray said.

Three of Casa Esperanza's current board members will join the PATH board, and the remaining board members will form a local advisory committee.

Tumbler, who has been volunteer acting director of Casa Esperanza for the past eight months, said that one of the understandings the shelter has with PATH is that the shelter be self-funding on its own merit, and in exchange for that, all funds raised in Santa Barbara will be used for local programs.

Part of the shelter's path to sustainability has been renegotiating bed rates with contracting agencies, like Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.  

Tumbler said the shelter is hoping to renegotiate full funding for beds contracted by Santa Barbara County during their upcoming budget process.

Roberts also addressed the council, and said the organization is excited to have Casa join their efforts.

Moving people off the streets into housing is a priority of the organization, he said.

"In the last two years, we have literally moved 4,200 people off the streets into apartments," he said.

Roberts said the organization has experts in mental health, veterans and other specialties, which allow them to raise more money, and that PATH is able to provide numerical outcomes of reducing homelessness.

"We're very excited," he said, adding that when the Casa board approached the organization a year ago, "we felt like this might be the time because Casa brought a positive relationship in the community and are financially stable."

City Councilman Frank Hotchkiss asked about limited housing resources in Santa Barbara, and if other communities where PATH is located could also be used to house Santa Barbara's homeless.

"Yes," Roberts said, adding that VA resources could be expanded in the county, and that there are ways to leverage resources. "Homelessness is not just a city problem."

Roberts also said he expects to continue the sobriety-based program and will not bring back the lunch program, two items that previously had caused issues with neighbors. 

Council members said they had seen real improvement since the changes had been made.

"It has not been easy, but everyone has worked hard to make this happen," Councilwoman Cathy Murillo said. "I am really glad to see we're coming into a clearing of sorts."

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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