Hafsa Kaka, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s senior advisor on homelessness, visited south Santa Barbara County on Wednesday afternoon to tour some of the shelters and housing projects, and to learn more about the county’s response to homelessness.
Kaka, along with several county representatives, toured the Hedges House of Hope shelter in Isla Vista, the upcoming Buena Tierra permanent supportive housing project in Goleta, the upcoming La Posada interim housing project and the DignityMoves temporary housing community in downtown Santa Barbara.
“We’re very proud that, despite the fact that we have about 1,000 more people slipping into homelessness every year, we’re now doing better than breaking even in South County,” county Supervisor Das Williams said. “That’s because of great staff, great operator that also provides services — the secret sauce as Sylvia [Barnard] likes to say, that ongoing service — and unity in the Board of Supervisors.”
Kaka started her visit at the Hedges House of Hope, which is a 50-bed shelter operated by the Good Samaritan Shelter.
Kirsten Cahoon, director of homeless services at Good Samaritan Shelter, said the Hedges House of Hope has served about 154 clients since opening in 2021, 113 of whom were chronically homeless.
“To be able to see the fruition of visiting one community and seeing that being emulated, but also taking on another level that creates and garners more local support, I think is really exciting,” Kaka said. “I’ve had an opportunity to work in local government, and I know very much how hard and how many hours it takes and late-night crunching numbers, but most importantly, as Chair Williams and Supervisor Capps have indicated, we really need some bold leaders and some bold leadership in the county to make this happen and the dedicated staff that work day in and day out.
“So, I just want to be able to say thank you. I see it. It’s so amazing to be able to go out to different communities and see how the state’s funds are actually helping change lives.”
Cahoon also said that the shelter is serving 45 residents while construction of the kitchen is ongoing.
The construction will result in a commercial-grade kitchen at Hedges House of Hope as the shelter starts a culinary training program for its clients.
Good Samaritan Shelter Executive Director Sylvia Barnard told Noozhawk that the program is in its first phase, which involves a job training program at the 3.5-acre farm at Bridge House in Lompoc, where clients focus on agriculture and growing produce, which is sent to all of the Good Samaritan programs.
The culinary training program will be offered for residents at the Hedges House of Hope and the Good Samaritan’s Santa Maria shelter, providing job training to cohorts of 10 participants who will receive certificates upon completing the program.
“The last phase of that is going to be our dream of the Good Samwich Food Trucks that will go out and be able to serve the community and provide job opportunities for our clients. That’s the big vision, but we’re taking steps in that direction,” Barnard said. “Hedges is unique in the fact that it’s going to be our only commercial kitchen in South County, so we’ll be able to provide a lot of services from here and be able to provide meals for the clients.”
Barnard added that the food from this program will feed residents at Hedges House of Hope, as well as all of the DignityMoves projects that the Good Samaritan Shelter is operating.
Meanwhile, construction and conversion work at the upcoming 60-unit Buena Tierra permanent supportive housing project is well underway, with plans for work to be complete by October.
The La Posada housing project will be another DignityMoves interim housing community with 90 units in the parking lot of the former La Posada Juvenile Hall.
The Good Samaritan Shelter will be operating La Posada, which Lucille Boss, encampment resolution coordinator for Santa Barbara County, said will be focused on encampment resolution and is being funded by state encampment resolution funding and by the Behavioral Health Bridge Housing program.