The Salvation Army told Noozhawk Tuesday night that it won’t pursue its controversial permanent supportive housing project on Santa Barbara’s Eastside.
“It became really apparent at the last community meeting that we attended that the community wanted a different program or no program at all,” said Maj. Jessyca Carr of the Salvation Army. “I think we understand there’s a lot of emotion and a lot of misinformation and a lot of challenges in serving difficult populations, and we want to respect the community. We heard them loud and clear.”
The Salvation Army a month ago proposed a project that would house the formerly homeless, up to 14 people, at 15 S. Alisos St.
The project sparked an immediate backlash from neighborhood residents and community activists, who did not want recently homeless people living in the area.
The $2.5 million in Homeless Emergency Aid Program funds from the state will now go back into a county pool of of money and be re-allocated to fund a different “intervention for the homeless,” Carr said.
The Salvation Army plans to send a formal letter to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors asking that the money be moved somewhere else.
It’s the second homeless housing project that the community has quashed. Westside residents hammered a tiny homes proposal for the corner of Carrillo and Castillo streets earlier this year, also proposed through HEAP funds.
Reduced funding and the public outrage forced the Santa Barbara Housing Authority to drop the project.
The Salvation Army has other programs in the area that serve the community’s most vulnerable, Carr said, and the organization will focus on that.
“There’s so much that we do, and we want to continue to be a good service provider to those in need,” Carr said.
With the public resistance, and threats of litigation, the Salvation Army opted to cut its ties.
“We have chosen to listen to the community and not go down the path of a new program in that location,” she said. “The Salvation army has always been good neighbors; the Salvation Army wants to continue to be good neighbors.”
Santa Barbara City Councilman Jason Dominguez said the project would have required a conditional-use permit. That fact, and the community resistance, meant the program could not move forward fast enough to make the project work, he said.
Dominguez said he has high hopes for something good to come out of all the drama — and possibly a project that could house teachers and young, working professionals.
“I hope the community is able to get together and formulate a plan to build housing at this spot, or another spot, that shows their willingness to support workforce housing,” Dominguez said.