Local leaderscelebrate Hope Village groundbreaking ceremony

Courtesy photo by Mooncrest Media
MOVING FORWARD: County, city, and local nonprofit leaders (including Sylvia Barnard of Good Samaritan Shelter, far right) attended the groundbreaking ceremony on May 9 for new interim housing facility Hope Village, which should be ready to house people experiencing homelessness by December 2023.

After more than a year of searching for and debating over a location that could provide temporary housing and services for those experiencing homelessness in Santa Maria, Santa Barbara County officials, local nonprofit leaders, and DignityMoves held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new homeless facility on May 9.  

Known as Hope Village, it will have 94 units right across from county offices. Run by Good Samaritan Shelter, Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley, and Marian Regional Medical Center, the village will give individuals 24-hour access to mental health care, drug and alcohol treatment, and social services with the goal of getting people into permanent housing, Good Sam Executive Director Sylvia Barnard said. 

“It’s really exciting because we know there’s a large unsheltered population in Santa Maria and just not enough shelter beds, so we are excited about the opportunity to provide additional services to those that need it,” Barnard added. 

According to the 2023 Point-In-Time Count, Santa Maria had 473 individuals experiencing homelessness, a slight increase from 2022’s 457. Barnard said she believes that Hope Village’s wraparound services and private room model will help decrease these numbers. 

“I think Hope Village is important because it’s a better intervention to serve individuals who have been sheltered for long periods of time, and Good Samaritan is excited to be a part of that process—especially here in Santa Maria,” Barnard said.

Of the 94 units, 10 will be dedicated to 18- to 24-year-olds exiting the foster care system and experiencing homelessness, 30 to recuperative care after a hospital stay, and 54 to community members in general. There will also be 24-hour security personnel and cameras on-site to ensure community safety. 

Site construction will cost $6.4 million—with $1 million allocated from county American Rescue Plan Act funds, $2 million from Dignity Health’s Common Spirit Homeless Health initiative grant, and $3.4 million from DignityMoves, according to a Feb. 28 Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors staff report

Support services will cost around $2.2 million per year, with the county paying about $1.6 million of that using ARPA funds for the first two fiscal years, homeless housing assistance and prevention funds, and behavioral health and bridge housing, according to the staff report. 

DignityMoves Santa Barbara County Regional Advancement Director Jack Lorenz told the Sun that grading and paving the site is the first step in construction followed by sewer, water, and electric installation and unit placement. The whole process should take about six months, he said, with the goal of housing people by December.

“They’re pretty self-contained, and since they’re not constructed on-site there’s not going to be the kind of noises you’d expect like saws and hammering. They’re more assembled than constructed,” Lorenz said. “The best way I can describe the units is they come like giant Ikea units and it takes a few guys to put them together.” 

The units have already been ordered and are in storage until they’re ready to be assembled and secured to the ground, Lorenz said. Once the units are hooked up to utilities, DignityMoves will receive donated furniture from Living Spaces, a furniture chain, and eventually will invite members of the public to “adopt a unit” to provide home decor.

“Ninety-four units in Santa Barbara County will make a profound impact on the unsheltered population. When we build these sites, we build them specifically where there are unsheltered folks,” he said. “Residents will see a positive change because unsheltered folks who were already there will be on-site and not on the streets anymore.” 

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