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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 12:37 pm | Fair 61º

 
 
 
 

Funding for Tiny Homes Projects for Homeless in Santa Barbara Gets Slashed

Housing Authority still wants to build the structures for people living on the streets at Castillo-Carrillo intersection

Skip Szymanski, deputy executive director and chief operating officer for the Santa Barbara Housing Authority Click to view larger
Skip Szymanski, deputy executive director and chief operating officer for the Santa Barbara Housing Authority, spoke Wednesday night in support of the tiny homes proposal under consideration in the city of Santa Barbara. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara's Housing Authority announced at a jam-packed meeting Wednesday night that it will scale back its controversial proposal to build 40 tiny homes for the homeless at one of the gateways to the city. 

However, it wasn't the public outrage that zapped the project's momentum.

Santa Barbara County officials earlier in the day informed the city that its grant request for $6 million would be slashed to $2 million. In addtion to Santa Barbara, 35 other entities in the county submitted grant applications to the state for funding to address the homeless problem. 

"There's no way we can do a 40-home development on the commuter lot," said Rob Fredericks, executive director and chief executive officer of the Housing Authority. 

More than 150 peopled showed up at the Louise Lowry Davis Center for a tightly controlled meeting put on by the city's Housing Authority.

Fredericks opened the meeting by apologizing for "the lack of initial outreach," spoke for an hour about the importance of the program, read anonymous questions written on cards by members of the audience, and then listened to people take the microphone to speak. 

Five members of the City Council — Kristen Sneddon, Oscar Gutierrez, Cathy Murillo, Randy Rowse and Eric Friedman — were in attendance. When the matter went before the council earlier in November, Rowse and councilman Jason Dominguez opposed it.

The Housing Authority wants to build the homes on a 1.3-acre city-owned parking lot on the corner of Castillo and Carrillo Streets, to provide housing for the most vulnerable homeless residents for up to 30 months.

ore than 150 peopled showed up at the Louise Lowry Davis Center Wednesday night. Click to view larger
More than 150 peopled showed up at the Louise Lowry Davis Center Wednesday night for a discussion about a proposal to place tiny houses for the homeless at Carrillo and Castillo streets in Santa Barbara. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The lot currently is used by a variety of downtown employee commuters.

The facilities would provide temporary electricity, common shower and sanitary facilities and meals provided by a nonprofit agency. The site would have a resident on-site manager, supportive services, 24-hour security and a Police Department work station.

The grant money became available earlier this year when the state enacted the Homeless Emergency Aid Program, or HEAP, which provides $500 million in block grants to cities and counties to address homelessness.

Santa Barbara County is eligible to receive up to $9.4 million in HEAP funds, an amount based on the countywide 2017 Point In Time Count of homeless individuals. The city's grant application involves several community organizations, including Cottage Health, PATH and CityNet.

Fredericks said the Housing Authority must now figure out how to spend the $2 million. It still wants to build tiny homes for the homeless on the site, but Fredericks said he didn't know how many at this time. 

Speakers line up Wednesday night to share their views about  a proposal to place tiny houses for the homeless at Carrillo and Castillo streets in Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
Speakers line up Wednesday night to share their views about a proposal to place tiny houses for the homeless at Carrillo and Castillo streets in Santa Barbara. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

"The only solution to end homelessness is a home," Fredericks said. "The status quo is unacceptable. If we do nothing, you are ending up with people languishing on the street. We have far too many people dying on the street."

Although the plan was scaled back, the lack of certainty about what's next frustrated many people who spoke out during the meeting. Castillo street residents fear that building homeless housing in their neighborhood would wreck their quality of life and put their families' health and safety in jeopardy. 

"I think the corner of Castillo and Carrillo is the wrong location," said Santa Barbara resident Dan Craviotto."If you want community support, you are going to have to find a new location."

Longtime homeless advocate and former homeless person Bob Hansen attended the meeting and twice blurted out "the airport" to suggest a location for the tiny homes. 

Jose Arturo Gallegos said he saw drugs, drinking and prostitution when he was homeless.

"I was disgusted by what I saw on the street," said Gallegos, who added that he now lives at the Victoria Hotel.

He said it would be wrong to build tiny homes for the homeless in that location.

"I totally disagree with this," Gallegos said. "Put it elsewhere."

But Santa Barbara resident Ben Romo briefly changed the tone of the meeting, calling on the critics to show the homeless more compassion.

"I just want to remind everyone that they are people," Romo said. "The status quo is unacceptable. We can't ship our problems somewhere else."

He said the Castillo street residents who were upset the tiny homes have an opportunity to be part of the solution.

Sneddon, who voted for the project when it went before the council, told Noozhawk that the meeting was "much-needed."

"There needs to be more engagement with the actual neighbors directly," Sneddon said. "I found some of the testimony really moving and humanizing."

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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