Homekey Studios in Lompoc
A former office building on the 100 block of North B Street in Lompoc has been repurposed as Homekey Studios, housing with wraparound services for underserved residents. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Former office buildings previously owned by Santa Barbara County have been converted into permanent supportive housing with wraparound services for several formerly homeless residents in Lompoc.

Located on the 100 block of North B Street, the county acquired two side-by-side office buildings on one lot and repurposed the site into Homekey Studios.

“The primary goal of Homekey Studios is to house persons experiencing homelessness in the Lompoc area who are at increased risk of contracting COVID by virtue of being unhoused,” John Polanskey, director of housing development at the Housing Authority of Santa Barbara County, said via email. “Permanent supportive housing provides affordable, safe and decent housing, and also provides the wraparound support services so that the (now formerly homeless) person can receive the support necessary to retain their housing and move forward with their lives.”

The HACSB was awarded $3.12 million to acquire an office building to transform into permanent housing with support services to residents. Primary funding for the project comes from the third round of awards through California’s Project Homekey program, a collaborative effort by the State of California to purchase and rehabilitate housing, and convert them into long-term permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.

The office buildings in Lompoc have been renewed into 14 units of permanent supportive housing, plus a manager’s unit, for a total of 15 housing units. The Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness is providing wraparound support services.

The HACSB has developed a comprehensive equity strategy to reach underserved populations, including outreach in Spanish and English as well as Mixteco speaking staff, according to the state.

Project Homekey money required that a site be identified and acquired, rehabilitation work completed and the majority of residents housed by the end of 2020, Polanskey said.

As required by the state, the rehabilitation work was completed, and eight of the residents were in their units before the new year began, Polanskey said. The remaining six residents and the resident manager were housed in January, he said.

The county BeWell had offices and a small clinic at the site, which they relocated a couple of blocks away, Polanskey said.

Since BeWell was serving people experiencing homelessness in the Lompoc area and who were at increased risk of COVID-19, Polanskey said, it made sense for referrals for residency at Homekey Studios to come from BeWell.

“We had tremendous cooperation from all county departments, the Board of Supervisors, the City of Lompoc and our contractors to make it happen,” Polanskey said. “Homekey Studios is fully occupied, and the wraparound support services for the permanent supportive housing residents are going well.”

California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in late September that 19 projects across the state, including Santa Barbara County, were awarded more than $137 million under the Project Homekey program.

“Local communities continue to demonstrate imagination and innovation for using Homekey dollars,” Lourdes Castro Ramírez, secretary of the state’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, said in a statement in September. “From a project in Santa Barbara that includes a comprehensive equity strategy to reach underserved populations, to a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, to providing units for post-hospitalization care for homeless persons, local communities are taking full advantage of Homekey’s flexibility.”

The state Department of Housing and Community Development administers Project Homekey. The program builds upon the Project Roomkey’s success, which aimed to provide motel and hotel rooms as protection from COVID-19 to the state’s unhoused population. 

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.