I am writing about someone I admire very much. A man who left a safe, comfortable church environment to serve the poor, needy and destitute on the streets with an open heart and bowls of terrible spaghetti (even the hungry street people said it was awful!) He served meals and listened to stories at Alameda Park and then Pershing Park and thank heavens faith communities came along side to do the cooking! Stories got told, many lives changed, but more importantly than anything is street friends were listened to and loved and they did not die alone.
Jeff Shaffer brought the compassionate faith community with him into the streets to cook, serve and love on street friends in a safe way. He sent street people home for funerals and deathbeds of loved ones, paid for gas needed to move to the next place. He fed dogs and even adopted one that his family has loved for years. He performed marriages, prevented divorces and blessed many new babies celebrating their lives.
Many of us came to serve alongside Jeff. Although I had done blanket drives and coat drives in the late 80’s and served at the Rescue Mission, Jeff opened new ways to serve. When Dr. Mimi Doohan, serving medically in the parks, shared about a new program she heard about to house multitudes of homeless friends in a nation-wide effort, Jeff jumped into the arena to work towards those efforts called 100k homes, then Common Ground, and now morphed into C3h.
Jeff set aside all he was doing placing wonderful volunteers and missionaries in place so he could focus on 100k efforts. It was a huge endeavor of grassroots efforts and the largest campaign of volunteers ever held in Santa Barbara County. All of us jumped onboard to be a part of the housing first model.
Jeff continued to serve in public with city officials, housing authorities, the media, and a multitude of volunteers. He brought in all colleges and youth to serve. His humor and ability to draw folks to him and his efforts paid off. Jeff was Common Ground. He had his hand on the pulse and the issues that no one else does because he was in the “trenches” with the people, not in an office.
If there is anyone who deserves to be acknowledged in the arena of aiding street friends of Santa Barbara, I think it should be Jeff and he should be awarded for his amazing efforts. But knowing Jeff, he will wait for his blessings at the pearly gates. So I will thank you Jeff Shaffer for setting a fine example, always with a sense of humor and acceptance of the human nature of the people who serve, and the people who need service. All have been affected by your kind efforts and dedication. Bravo for a job well done!