The DignityMoves temporary housing community in downtown Santa Barbara — which consists of 33 portable, single-room units, each with its own locking door — started welcoming residents this month.
As of Wednesday, 29 people had moved into the “village,” located at 1016 Santa Barbara St., that was built by Bay Area-based nonprofit organization DignityMoves and is now being run by the Good Samaritan Shelter. Program manager Aaron Drake said he expects the remaining units to be filled by the end of the week.
“It’s going good, the residents are getting settled in and they’re transitioning in,” Good Samaritan Shelter Executive Director Sylvia Barnard said. “It’s pretty quiet, and the residents are getting used to having their own living space.”
Each 64-square-foot unit, designed and constructed by BOSS Cubez, is made of 30% recycled materials and includes a bed, a desk and a chair, windows and — what DignityMoves founder Elizabeth Funk has said is the most important feature — a door that locks.
Additionally, each unit is equipped with lighting, heating and air conditioning, electricity and outlets.
Other structures in the community include offices, a clinic, restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, a dining hall, a computer lab and community spaces.
While the Good Samaritan Shelter is the primary provider for the housing community, it has partnered with several other agencies to provide care and support for residents.
The Good Samaritan Shelter is providing 24/7 staffing and case managers, while Doctors Without Walls and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department provide health services and referrals, and the county’s Behavioral Wellness department is providing outreach for mental health services and its Alcohol and Drug Program.
Additionally, Barnard said that many other partnerships are providing services to residents on site, such as City Net, the Santa Barbara County Public Defender’s Office and the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.
The housing community is meant to serve as bridge housing, where residents live for six to 12 months and receive services as they work toward a more permanent way out of homelessness.
“The goal is that they would move from there into permanent housing,” Barnard said. “We’re really grateful for the community and the support from the county. … We’re just really grateful to serve individuals who have been unsheltered for such a long period of time.”
Drake said the community is designed to allow residents space to transition through their individual situations and to “catch their breath.”
“A lot of it is by design because a lot of them are higher on the vulnerability list,” Drake said.
Drake also told Noozhawk that the environment and design have allowed residents to feel more relaxed and even build friendships.
He said one resident expressed feeling safe and relaxed in the community, allowing her to do more than just survive.
“Our streets cannot be the waiting room,” Funk said in a news release announcing the community’s opening. “The longer people are on the streets, trauma takes a serious toll making future successful outcomes much more challenging. DignityMoves provides rapid, cost-effective ways to bring people indoors immediately to avoid perpetuating that trauma and begin rebuilding their lives.”
Construction of the site cost about $1.7 million, and the county is providing funding for ongoing services and operations for three years.
According to DignityMoves, Santa Barbara County is planning to begin construction of a permanent housing project in the same location after the three years, and the portable units then will be relocated elsewhere in the county.