Thirty-two formerly homeless have found a home at the newly opened Pescadero Lofts, a $10.3 million project in the heart of Isla Vista that aims to move people off the streets and into supportive housing.
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors got an update on the project last week from Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, whose district includes the project. The board voted unanimously to receive and file the report.
“We really think it’s a feel-good story,” Farr said of the project, adding that homelessness in Isla Vista has been a problem since she began her time in office as a supervisor.
She recalled attending a meal being handed out to those in need by St. Brigid’s in Isla Vista, and “I was struck by the number of homeless people that came out for this.”
About the same time, Farr was also appointed as the board representative to the South Coast Homelessness Advisory Committee, where they were looking at projects that included wrap-around services.
“That seemed to be the model that was needed in the Isla Vista community,” she said.
That’s what the project at 761 Camino Pescadero, a former fraternity property, eventually became after the property was purchased with redevelopment agency money, she said.
John Polanskey of the Santa Barbara County Housing Authority, which will own and manage the building, said very low-income people are eligible for housing at the lofts.
Union Bank was able to purchase the tax credits and be a construction lender in the $10.3 million project, which had a groundbreaking in November 2013.
The building’s architecture is inspired by Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone and incorporates elements such as large windows “to bring the outdoors in,” he said, adding that the residents are people who have “been on the streets for decades.”
The project has 26 studios, six one-bedroom apartments and a managers unit, along with community programing space, 34 parking spaces and twice as many bike parking spaces.
The Rev. Jon-Stephen Hedges, an Isla Vista resident and founder of the St. Brigid’s ministry, said the tenant selection brought many people he’s seen on the streets for decades into housing.
The average time homeless of the residents brought into the lofts was 14.75 years, and three residents are over 30 years homeless, he said. The residents have an average agree of 54, and nine are veterans.
“These folks were our neighbors,” Hedges said. “They were not a ‘target population,’”
They were able to use survey data gathered from point in time counts conducted in past years to place the most vulnerable, and 21 out of 32 residents had been deemed at risk of premature death had they stayed on the streets. Residents pay anywhere from $30 to $200 a month, and receive services from case workers on site.
“The evidence so far says that this just might be a template,” he said.
Farr said that 30 out of 32 residents reported incarceration prior to being housed, and that they had been responsible for 14 ER visits within a three-month period.
If the costs of incarceration and ER time could be curbed, the county could save money, she said.
“We know the impact of having housing of people,” she said, adding that future challenges involved equipping residents with job skills to support their goals and keep them housed. “If we can improve their lives and at the same time save costs, that is such a benefit to our community.”
— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.