Santa Barbara County recently purchased a $6.3-million residential building in Isla Vista to use as an emergency shelter for formerly homeless individuals in the Isla Vista and Goleta area.
In mid-June, the county entered a lease agreement with the owner of the building located at 6549 El Colegio Road.
The emergency shelter, operated by the Good Samaritan Shelter, has been operating since then and, according to staff reports, the county had until Nov. 15 to exercise the option of purchasing the property, which the Board of Supervisors did last week.
“The impacts of COVID-19 have included an increase in unsheltered homelessness,” county staff members wrote in a report for the Board of Supervisors’ Nov. 2 meeting. “There has been widespread concern for the health and safety of those experiencing homelessness, as well as concern for the environment and safety of all community members.”
According to Sylvia Barnard, executive director for Good Samaritan, the emergency shelter opened within a week of the Isla Vista pallet shelter village closing, so that people from that temporary shelter could move into a new shelter.
The pallet houses that were in Isla Vista are now set up outside the Bridgehouse shelter in Lompoc.
“(The new emergency shelter) is a really wonderfully run facility that’s perfect for the purpose,” said Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann. “Good Samaritan is doing a tremendous job.”
The 11,489-square-foot, two-story multi-unit building has 19 bedrooms and six bathrooms. The property also includes a parking lot to the rear of the building.
The shelter has the capacity to house 50 people and is currently at about 80% occupancy, Barnard said, adding that outside of the pandemic, the shelter would normally be serving around 35 to 40 clients.
She also said that this program will only serve adult individuals who are homeless residents of the Isla Vista and Goleta area.
“Good Samaritan has estimated that approximately 35% of the persons served by the program will be successfully navigated towards either a transitional housing opportunity, Rapid Re-Housing, or permanent supportive housing,” according to the county.
During last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Hartmann described her tour of the emergency shelter the previous week and praised Good Samaritan, as well as General Services staff who made renovations to the building prior to people taking residence at the shelter in June.
“We had the good fortune of meeting someone who had lived in the parks, moved to the pallet village and now has a job there and really turned his life around,” Hartmann said. “We’re so proud to be part of that. It really works and it’s worth the investment.”
Some of the renovations made to the facility include landscaping, pouring concrete, and the addition of ADA-accessible bathrooms.
Barnard said that the kitchen at the shelter is not currently usable, but once escrow closes by the end of December, General Services will also be rehabilitating the kitchen area so that it can be used.
“We’re just grateful for the partnership with the county,” Barnard said. “We’re grateful for their partnership and their funding.”