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A View from In There


The Casa Esperanza Homeless Shelter of Santa Barbara, California is a house of no hope. This shelter is designed to run people out. Their policy is to charge you rent, one third of your check (if you’re on Social Security and get a $900 check). You pay one third just for rent, one third goes into a savings account, and the other $300 you get for spending money, storage units, whatever.

This system house will push you off the edge, it’s a mad chaos. Smoke-filled patio. You eat off of plastic trays that look like a mental ward, the front desk has little organization. It’s

A) I don’t know.

B)They’re not here.

C) Put your name on a list.

They answer phones, and answer questions, with little concern for you. There are different lists of people to be seen. The list goes to a person who walks around looking for you.

Waste of money having nurses walk around in circles calling people’s names. No place for people to wait, like a simple bench – sign your name and be seated. No, people walk from front to back looking for them. (Waste.)

The kitchen help is volunteers. People coming there are asked to help. Which is a waste of time if you’re looking for full-time work. You can never get out of there and be seen as a qualified worker. If you’re good, they won’t care anyway. I have seen staff jump in front of the lunch line, dinner line, whatever meal is being served. And they’re thinking, “I need to hurry up and eat so I can get back to work.” How does that make the homeless feel—watching staff eating first and getting paid?

Every day, the place opens to the public, rushing into the place, and showers are only from 8:30 a.m. until 10 a.m. With hardly any vacuum for the steam, it goes back into the register and is recycled through the air system. Black mold in system (maybe).

The place opens to the public in the winter months, so then every person comes in dirty, stinky, smelly, and you live in this every winter. And pay the $300. Running [the residents in programs] out, while the place gets money for housing them; that’s business. The people who pay and the people who don’t—there’s a grudge, and people run others out, for power. The game is to try to get the others to go off so they are entertainment.

The Health Department will provide a medical bed for people who come out of quarantine. Tuberculosis beds are paid for by the State of California and you may be staying next to a person who just got out of quarantine. I was placed there after getting TB and being in quarantine for two months. After I was there for one month, I did a spit test, and was put back into quarantine for another week. It was hush-hush. I was thinking about the people who pay money to stay there. How many others do the same? I was thinking about the people who pay money to stay there.

I have seen so much: drinking going on in the patio, drugs being popped in lunch line, people smoking crack in the bathroom, needles, etc.

The mental patients pushed to the streets and who are not all there don’t understand what, what … I have seen people out there cleaning up ashtrays with their hands and then wiping their dirty hands on their arms and legs touching things. Those little “Wash Your Hands Before You Eat” signs are helpful but not for different levels of people.

Last December the sewer line above the locker room was leaking for 40 days (I took pictures). Mad complaints. I watched women in wheelchairs rolling through this to get to their lockers. The Better Business Bureau, the Health Department, Building and Safety … nothing done. When I asked for support the homeless people told me: Where would they go if they shut the place down? They just tightened up the rubber clamp; do you realize that if a pipe is leaking water, then gas is also leaking? Still today I bet there’s been not one qualified person who was hired to inspect and passed this as OK.

In my opinion, this place should be shut down and another place, away from the hub of the tourists should be opened instead. The police don’t enforce “No Shopping Carts” so the people visiting get to see the people strolling around with junk-filled carts, and coming from the House of Hope, or on the way to cash in the smelly cans and bottles which are next to the place.

Eighty percent of people in the streets are there because they’re addicts or alcoholics. The Milpas group needs to see that the stealing from the area is by people who are drug addicts and that Yanonali Street is where they’re going after they sell it. How many drug dealers have been taken off that street? Look at the facts. Some of the people who were running this were using and didn’t last long. I know. The same people who were involved the next year were in treatment for drugs. (Detox.)

This letter is my opinion, with six years living on the streets around this area. I got TB and was treated, and then left the area after treatment. I’m now housed.

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