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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 11:11 am | Fair 55º

 
 
 
 

Homeless Get Respite, Holiday Cheer at Carnival

More than 250 turn out for sixth annual July 4th event at Santa Barbara Rescue Mission

Anna Marie Olson enjoyed the day, and won a purse, at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s Fourth of July Carnival on Thursday. (Linda Sturesson / Noozhawk photo)

A homeless woman proudly showed off her new purse Thursday after her raffle-ticket number was called out on the stage at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s Fourth of July Carnival.

“I really needed it,” said Anna Marie Olson, a former heroin addict.

The sixth annual July 4th Carnival and barbeque was held from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Rescue Mission’s parking lot at 535 E. Yanonali St.

Some 250 homeless people attended the event for free hamburgers, games and a raffle offering some much-needed prizes.

“Homelessness is tough any day of the year, but it’s especially difficult on a holiday when you have no place to go,” said Rolf Geyling, president of the Rescue Mission. “So we’ve just made this a place where they can come and celebrate with us.”

Shoes, sleeping bags, backpacks and gift cards were given out to thankful winners.

Olson, who said she has stayed clean for four months, was one of them.

After her husband went to prison, she found herself without a place to stay. She wandered the streets of Santa Barbara in the middle of the night, cold, sick and alone, before she was taken into her new home – the Rescue Mission.

“That was the day when I decided to throw everything away and clean up,” Olson said. “I think this is wonderful. We’re like a big family, and it’s great that they put this together for us homeless people.”

The Rescue Mission was established in 1965, and became the only organization in the county to provide meals and accommodation to homeless guests 365 days a year.

Attendees at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s Fourth of July Carnival were treated to a barbecue lunch. (Linda Sturesson / Noozhawk photo)

The Rescue Mission’s 12-month residential treatment program is the largest and longest drug and alcohol treatment program on California’s Central Coast, with 27 courses offered.

At the moment, 45 men and 24 women are enrolled. According to the Rescue Mission’s “Flash Facts,” more than 80 percent of its residents are employed when they graduate.

“Most of our staff are all graduates from our treatment programs,” said Geyling. “Hopefully, what we’ve done is we’ve returned them into the community.”

The program has won regional and national recognition “for its extraordinary effectiveness,” said Rebecca Weber, director of communications.

American rock-n-roll classics boomed from the speakers as people ate and laughed, played games and threw pies in staffers’ faces.

As for 46-year-old Olsen, she recently enrolled in Santa Barbara City College’s Extended Opportunity Programs and Services, and hopes to become a nurse.

“The door is already open for me, so I just need to keep [it] open and keep moving on,” she said. “I go to church now, and as soon as I stepped foot in there, I took His right hand and started following His footsteps.”

Noozhawk intern Linda Sturesson 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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