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‘Closet’ Family Finds Apartment

Thanks to Transition House


NOWHERE TO GO: A little more than a year ago, a hardworking Santa Barbara couple and their year-old child were living in a $550-a-month walk-in closet. There were 15 other people sharing the house.

Then, soon after their second child, Elijah, was born, the husband lost his main job, and they had to leave even that cramped space. They faced the sadness and plight of homelessness as the holiday season approached.

“I didn’t know where we were going to go,” Delilah Santos told me. “We didn’t have a car, or furniture, nothing we could call our own. We didn’t even have a bed.”

She got a job. Then they found space at Transition House family shelter. Today, through the counseling and support of Transition House, and their sheer determination and hard work, they are looking forward to Christmas in a neat, warm Eastside apartment. Sergio Santos holds down two jobs, and Delilah is a part-time sales associate at a downtown retail store and plans to enroll at Santa Barbara City College.

The Santos Family
Click to enlarge photo

Courtesy Photo

The Santos Family

Contrary to the belief of some who think that Transition House is a way station for needy people coming into the community, 95 percent of families assisted are from the area, according to Executive Director Kathleen Baushke.

Of the 342 adults and children served in 2011, 326 are from the South Coast, she said. Eight others are from elsewhere in Santa Barbara County, two from Santa Paula, and six from out of state.

Delilah, a Native American, said she moved to Santa Maria with her family when she was 3 years old, and graduated from Santa Maria High School with a 3.8 grade point average. Sergio is a 16-year Santa Barbaran and works in restaurants.

“It is hard to describe how depressed we were when we entered Transition House,” Delilah told me as we chatted in her neat apartment with its Riviera view. “Although we were in a shelter and I was sad,” she struggled to keep her part-time job, despite the after-effects of her problem pregnancy and pain from tumors on her body. “I was thinking about my children, and that motivated me even when it was rough,” she said.

“Sergio and I began planning with our case manager to figure out how we would get back into housing. On top of everything else, I needed to have surgery on my leg to remove three tumors.

“The surgery would require time away from work, and I was afraid I would lose my job. I couldn’t put it off forever, and the pain was getting worse.” Sergio was going from restaurant to restaurant seeking work.

Meanwhile, “Our children received quality day care, and we attended parenting and career-development classes,” she said. The couple also got budget counseling. “They teach you the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need.’ I am so grateful to Transition House.” Delilah took a leave from work and had surgery.

With both parents working, they were able to move from the family shelter to Transition House’s Firehouse facility, then to their own apartment in July 2011. They have money in the bank.

Delilah had been attending Santa Barbara Business College and now plans to take classes at City College in February, then go on to earn a university degree in early childhood development. “My goal is to be a social worker,” she said.

“My babies have a warm place to sleep and are not on the street. There have been a lot of trials, but we are here now, and I see the silver lining.” (See transitionhouse.com for info and donations.)

THE LION IN WINTER: It’s Christmas 1183, and all is not jolly for King Henry II. In The Lion in Winter, on the boards at Ensemble Theatre Company, there’s one heck of a battle involving the king (Eric Pierpoint), his wife back from exile (Stephanie Zimbalist, in an Oscar-quality performance), their three sons, his mistress, and the king of France. Cracking good theater. The Santa Barbara Public Library’s Theatre Book Club will discuss the play today, December 8, at 5:30 p.m., in the Faulkner Gallery. Free and open to the public.

TALLIS SCHOLARS: Renaissance sacred music may not be to everyone’s taste, but Our Lady of Sorrows Church was SRO for a heavenly night of music Friday, as the world-famous Tallis Scholars sang beautifully. (Thanks to UCSB Arts & Lectures.)

WRONG WAR: I goofed. It wasn’t the Korean War that vice president-to-be Dick Cheney avoided with a series of college-related deferments, but the Vietnam conflict.

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