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Isla Vista Housing Project to Give Homeless Much More Than a Roof Over Their Heads

$12 million Pescadero Lofts — a partnership between federal government and county Housing Authority — to include services like career and job training

A $12 million, three-story rental housing project designed to bring the homeless off the streets of Isla Vista and into permanent housing is set to open in November.

The Pescadero Lofts, at 761 Pescadero St., will include 26 studios, six one-bedroom apartments and a two-bedroom managers unit.

The project, funded by the federal government and the the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara, will feature on-site services, such as mental health, alcohol and drug addiction counseling, computer and financial literacy classes, as well as career and job training. Drug testing and health screenings will also be available.

“We’re looking for people living on the streets, in cars, on people’s couches, who have made a decision that they want to move out of homelessness,” said John Polanskey, director of the county Housing Authority.

The Housing Authority purchased the site, behind Friendship Manor, from the county’s former redevelopment agency for $2 million. Federal tax credits and Section 8 rental housing assistance programs will allow residents to pay between $400 to $600 a month to live at the Pescadero Lofts, although they don’t necessarily need to have a job to live there. Section 8 rules require that residents pay 30 percent of their income, but if some people looking for housing may not have any income to start.

Once housed, Polanskey said the goal would be to help them develop job skills and return to the housing market. He is hopeful that construction will be completed in October and residents can move in mid-November.

South Coast agencies and activists have long struggled with how to handle the region’s homeless problem. While the homeless are more visible in Santa Barbara, Isla Vista has long been home to an eclectic mix of people. Although Isla Vista is perceived as a college town, the densely populated area also houses thousands of working and low-income families and several hundred homeless people who live on the streets and crash nightly at parks and in other secluded areas.

With the help of federal tax credits and Section 8 housing assistance, Pescadero Lofts residents will be ale to rent units for between $400 and $600 a month. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)
With the help of federal tax credits and Section 8 housing assistance, Pescadero Lofts residents will be ale to rent units for between $400 and $600 a month. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The Housing Authority hopes to encourage sorority and fraternity members to volunteer as buddies for the residents, and possibly check in on the tenants from time to time.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr said the project is a model of what is needed to help the homeless population.

“You have to bring the services to the homeless,” Farr told Noozhawk.

After years of living on the streets, Farr said some homeless residents “don’t feel comfortable behind walls,” but may not have the ability to hop on the bus and attend support meetings or apply for jobs. Moving into a new studio or apartment could be overwhelming at first, but the on-site services will increase the chances for a successful transition into housing life.

“This is a great project,” she said. “I am really excited to see it moving forward so quickly.”

Although each studio and apartment are individual units, Polanskey hopes to see the residents interacting and learning from each other as they battle out of homelessness. Residents will be encouraged to cook dishes and bring the food out into downstairs dining room, to enjoy potluck meals.

The units will be furnished with beds and furniture, but community members will have the opportunity to donate $500 to help a resident purchase living essentials such as pots, pans, linens, sheets, towels and toiletries. Donors will be listed on plaques.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, said the project is what Isla Vista needs.

“Support services for people coming out of homelessness are vital,” she said. “It’s not just putting up walls. It’s what you are also offering them that counts.”

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.

The three-story Pescadero Lofts will provide more than 30 individual studios and apartments. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)
The three-story Pescadero Lofts will provide more than 30 individual studios and apartments. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

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