The cultural divide on the Westside of Santa Barbara every Sunday is as plain as the traffic stripes down the middle of Castillo Street. On one side is Pershing Park, where an elderly, zealous Christian man serves food and preaches the Gospel every week to between 40 and 70 hungry homeless people. On the other side are the hotels and motels that cater to tourists, who are the cornerstone of the city’s revenue base. Their owners and managers would like nothing more than for the preacher, named Hank Drost, and anyone else providing services to the homeless there, to go as far away as possible.
Don Fitz is the General Manager of the Castillo Inn. “You could talk to any hotelier in the area [about Drost]” he said. “It’s the worst thing ever. He doesn’t do it in his neighborhood. He does it in ours, bringing 50 to 70 homeless people to the park that scare our guests.”
There doesn’t seem to be an organized effort at present to shut Drost’s Sunday service down, but with discontent among business people intensifying, one could emerge at anytime. With an organized campaign very much underway to confront the presence of “transients” in the Milpas Street corridor—including a desire to close Casa Esperanza’s free lunch program—homeless advocates are worried food programs will soon be as scarce as they were in the 1980s, when dumpster diving was common. To read more see homelessinsb.org.