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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 12th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 41 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 41

Harvest Community Center to build homeless shelter in Santa Maria

By Kasey Bubnash

At a meeting in September, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors declared a countywide "shelter crisis," a label that made the area eligible for millions of dollars in state funding that would go toward fighting homelessness through housing assistance and emergency aid.

County staff said at the meeting that they were looking into housing options for nearly 900 unsheltered residents in the area, and the Point in Time count of the homeless population in Santa Barbara County has stayed at roughly 1,500 since 2011. 


ADDRESSING A CRISIS
The state of the Santa Ynez riverbed and its homeless population was a key driver in Santa Barbara County pushing for state funding to help address the issue.
FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM

It's a complicated issue that Orie and Gladys Johnson have been working to address for nearly 40 years. They started by passing out food to homeless individuals before Santa Maria had a food bank, then they opened Victory Harvest Church, and then the Harvest Community Center

Now they're working to build a two-story, 40-person homeless shelter on an acre of land behind the church. 

"They've always had a big heart for helping," said Mayra Ramos, assistant director of the Harvest Community Center.

Ramos said that about 10 people without homes filter through the church and community center each week, looking for food and resources. Many are families living out of their vehicles, who only recently became homeless because someone in the family was laid off or had their work hours cut. 

While the center provides food, after school programs for kids, and adult computer literacy and resume building programs, it doesn't provide overnight shelter, and Ramos said the Johnsons want to fill that missing link. 

"The overall goal is to fill the needs our community has," Ramos said, "and that includes everybody, not just one demographic."

The shelter is expected to cost about $2 million to build, and Harvest will be submitting a few applications for grants and city funds. Ramos said that while Harvest will be launching a year-long fundraising campaign in January 2019, it's not too early to donate. 

Idler's Home already donated $1,600 to the project, and Anthony's Grill in Guadalupe has also agreed to contribute. Community members can send donations to 619 N. Railroad Ave., Santa Maria, CA 93458, or visit facebook.com/harvestcommunitycenter.




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