The DignityMoves interim housing project will be located at county-owned property at 1016 Santa Barbara St.
The DignityMoves interim housing project will be located at county-owned property at 1016 Santa Barbara St. in Santa Barbara. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved a ground lease agreement and services agreement with the Good Samaritan Shelter during its meeting Tuesday for the DignityMoves interim housing project anticipated to open in downtown Santa Barbara in April.

The DignityMoves interim housing community will be located at county-owned property at 1016 Santa Barbara St. and include 33 prefabricated modular housing units for individuals experiencing homelessness.

“Tackling homelessness is one of those things where the solutions always end up being more unpopular than the problem is,” First District Supervisor Das Williams said. “I’m really proud of this partnership. … The urgency of making this project show the community that it can be done in a very functional way is what will open doors for solving the homeless problem — or at least greatly reduce it.”

The Good Samaritan Shelter will be providing services for the interim housing project such as housing navigation and supportive services, case management, public health nurse and behavioral health clinical visits, meals, 24/7 security, and access to on-site bathroom and shower facilities.

The ground lease agreement term will cover the three-year project, commencing Feb. 1 and going through June 30, 2025, according to the Board of Supervisors staff report.

After the three-year term, because of the portable nature of the units, the modular units then will be transported and repurposed at another location.

“It is anticipated that the emergency modular unit homes will be retained as available inventory of emergency shelter bed resources for homeless persons for at least a 10-year period,” the staff report states.

At a December ribbon-cutting event, DignityMoves founder Elizabeth Funk said that 83% of unhoused individuals living in encampments said in a survey that they don’t want to go to local shelters because they want to have privacy and their own space.

Each unit in the interim housing community will be about 64 square feet and include a bed, a desk and a chair, heating and air-conditioning, lighting and electricity, a window, and — perhaps most importantly — a door that locks.

Additionally, each unit will be ADA-accessible and, while plumbing, water and sewer facility connections will not be included in individual units, these services will be available in a communal area at the site.

“The site is conveniently located in downtown Santa Barbara with easy access to bus service and other transportation options,” the staff report states. “A grocery/convenience store and other community amenities are readily accessible within walking distance.”

According to the staff report for the item, the project will cost a total of more than $3.5 million, with funding for three years of operation coming from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention funding, and County-ARPA funds.

DignityMoves secured other philanthropic community-based funding for the purchase of the modular units, support structures and other improvements.

The staff report also said that occupants of the DignityMoves interim housing units can be expected to reside in the project for about six months, so the project is anticipated to serve 66 individuals per year — or 198 individuals in the three-year period.

The main goal of the project, outside of providing a temporary safe, dignified home for unhoused individuals, is to transition occupants to permanent housing as quickly as possible.

“I’m really excited about this project. I’m looking forward to maybe working with DignityMoves up here in the North County to find some locations that make sense,” Fourth District Supervisor Bob Nelson said. “I do believe these types of projects are our pathway forward to addressing the encampment situation that we have in our community of people living in the streets.”

The staff report states that General Services staff expect all utilities point-of-connections to be completed by the winter of fiscal year 2021-22, providing for opening of the project in April.

More information on DignityMoves and its Santa Barbara project can be found on its website, and information on the Good Samaritan Shelter can be found on the shelter’s website.

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.