<b>DAY OF REPRIMANDING:</b> Casa Esperanza’s director Mike Foley got an earful on Tuesday from the Board of Supervisors, though they did approve changes to their legal agreement with the homeless shelter, which has hit tough financial times.

Paul Wellman

DAY OF REPRIMANDING: Casa Esperanza’s director Mike Foley got an earful on Tuesday from the Board of Supervisors, though they did approve changes to their legal agreement with the homeless shelter, which has hit tough financial times.

Tough Love’ for Homeless Shelter

Supes Vent as Casa Esperanza Cuts Services

Wednesday, September 18, 2013
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Directors of Santa Barbara’s financially troubled Case Esperanza homeless shelter didn’t just get a harsh dose of “tough love” from the county supervisors on Tuesday, they got seriously spanked. Even so, the supervisors unanimously approved changes to the shelter’s 60-year covenant with the County of Santa Barbara, which will allow the cash-strapped Casa to cut costly services without putting at risk the shelter’s $500,000 interest-free, no-payback loan from the county.

But before that vote, the supervisors expressed frustration at being notified of the Casa’s dire circumstances so late in the game and took exception to shelter supporters who said they felt “abandoned” by elected officials, like Supervisor Salud Carbajal, who stepped off the organization’s board. (Carbajal resigned to avoid a conflict of interest for serving on a board that receives county funding, explaining that could be “a little awkward.”) Likewise, the supervisors bristled at the suggestion of some Casa supporters — like June Sochel of the Gildea Foundation — that the city and county governments needed to re-double their efforts on behalf of the homeless and for the shelter.

A surprised Supervisor Steve Lavagnino was expecting “a mea culpa, if you will” from Casa advocates, but explained, “Instead, what I heard we need to step up.” Carbajal added, “I hate to break it to you, but county government is never going to do everything and it’s never going to do enough.”

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino (Sept. 17, 2013)
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino (Sept. 17, 2013)

For Casa director Mike Foley, Tuesday’s verbal shellacking was salt in an already raw wound. Over the past several months, he and his board have been re-writing the shelter’s core mission and the cuts have been exceptionally painful. Not only has the Casa eliminated its day drop-in center — effective this Tuesday — but it cut its satellite food program in Isla Vista. More fundamentally, the Casa is now pursuing a new policy of requiring its residents to stay sober while there, which hasn’t always been the case. Many wonder where the non-sober will go this winter when the Casa begins operating at its maximum capacity of 200 people a night, but the changed policy may open new funding opportunities.

The question is whether the shelter — begun in 1999 by a coalition of business, government, and religious leaders — can stay afloat until that happens. In the past five years, the shelter has borrowed nearly $2.2 million to maintain the current level of operations, and this year’s budget is nearly $2 million less than it was two years ago. The shelter is in the midst of an emergency $300,000 fundraising drive, which Foley said has generated $192,000 with two weeks to go.

All was not strictly dollars and cents on Tuesday. Linda Miller, who’s stayed at Casa in the past, predicted a spike in aggressive panhandling, illegal camping, and dumpster diving due to the cuts. “It’s appalling anyone has to do without food,” she said. Another homeless woman complained that the waiting list for subsidized housing was six years long, lamenting, “Six years is a long time to be on the streets.” And many others urged the supervisors to remember most of the homeless were women and children, not the people panhandling on street corners.

Santa Barbara County Housing Authority CEO Robert Pearson (left) talks with Casa Esperanza executive director Mike Foley at the Board of Supervisors (Sept. 17, 2013)
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Santa Barbara County Housing Authority CEO Robert Pearson (left) talks with Casa Esperanza executive director Mike Foley at the Board of Supervisors (Sept. 17, 2013)

Foley is hoping to sell the Casa property to an undisclosed third-party non-profit, which in turn will lease the Casa back to the shelter. The proceeds would help pay off much of the shelter’s accrued debt. County auditor Bob Geis expressed skepticism at this plan, and the supervisors worried that such a sale would leave their $500,000 loan unsecured and uncollateralized. But the point was moot, because the load was made with the clear expectation that the money would never be paid back and that no interest would ever be charged. In exchange, the shelter was supposed to provide a range of shelter services — including the day drop-in center — through 2059. “We’ve already lost our $500,000,” said Geis. “That’s the story. It is what it is.”

In the end, the supervisors voted to change the Casa’s covenant language to allow the elimination of the drop-in center over the next 46 years. This leaves intact the interest-free and forgivable provisions of the $500,000, which in turn, will facilitate the eventual sale of the property. Supervisors Lavagino and Peter Adam were skeptical the Casa could be saved, saying “Good luck,” to Foley and his supporters. Supervisor Doreen Farr lamented the loss of program, terming the damage inflicted to the safety net “huge.” And while supervisor Carbajal was clearly frustrated, he understood there was no choice. “Who are we fooling?” he asked. “We can’t provide this service for the community.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Caring for the Poor is not a Profitable career move.

dou4now (anonymous profile)
September 18, 2013 at 8:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It was for along time but not anymore.

Byrd (anonymous profile)
September 18, 2013 at 2:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Homeless, Inc. would beg to differ on your belief that caring for the poor is not a profitable move. To the contrary, those employees of the local Homeless, Inc. community know and understand that it can be quite profitable, provided you are one of the employees of Homeless, Inc. and not one of the unfortunate individuals who have to rely on their services.

WilliamMunny (anonymous profile)
September 18, 2013 at 2:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What a mess! This case just begs for some organizational expertise that Foley, for all his other stellar attributes, does not seem to possess. How does one run any organization long term on loans and hope? The answer is that you don't. I understand how difficult it must be to operate an organization on donations and grants, but there is such a thing as understanding the limits of your expenditures being defined by the limits of your income. This is not a difficult concept. In the end, it is my view that this service should be provided by public funding controlled by elected officials. The only way to fund such an enterprise is to spread the cost across all society, like they do in Denmark and other civilized places.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
September 18, 2013 at 7:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@ Eckermann - I agree with last half of your post. But the first part is totally off base. You give sh-t to Foley, asking how you do it long term on loans, saying the answer is that you don't. But the sh-t you load on Foley is precisely for doing what you say to do ... stop the loans which were a short term expedient not sustainable in long term. So why do you give him sh-t for this? It's doing what you say to do, but you punish it anyway.

Are you truly a friend to this cause in this North American reality or not? Yeah, Yeah, give us Denmark or some other unhelpful suggestion that ain't happening in this section of North America. Any other helpful ideas before we just totally tune you out, and tune out your unhelpful trashing of folks trying to do at least something good at Casa, like folks Foley and many others? That is, the Casa located in Santa Barbara, CA, USA ... not the one in Copenhagen or some other subsidized right thinking EU bliss state..The real, of the here and now.

Thanks for your lack of support, in the reality of what we live here, not the beautiful reality (or theory) of "there", east of the meridian. feel free to engage locally when you're ready.

OldDawg (anonymous profile)
September 19, 2013 at 2:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Well Old Dawg, I am not the one selling the fantasy that we can provide services without the long term funding to pay for them. So I am not the one engaging in magical thinking. I agree that we have problem and that we need to find the means to address the problem of homelessness effectively. But I really do not believe that this problem can be solved with charity and volunteers operating on a wing and a prayer. What we need are government funded and run institutions paid for with taxes. You may accuse my solution of being unrealistic, but it is proven model. Despite all the emotion and good intentions, the current model at Casa does not appear to be working. I would love to support a local model that is financially and organizationally viable. So far, I have not seen one implemented.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
September 19, 2013 at 2:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The time has come for some of our more prominent community members to step up to the plate and donate some money to this worthy cause. The problem of funding could be solved if Wendy McCaw, Ty, Warner, and Oprah Winfrey would throw a few million dollars to the shelter. Better yet, they could provide funding for a new shelter that would serve those with substance abuse issues. Without a place for these people to go will result in more deaths this winter.

buckwheat (anonymous profile)
September 20, 2013 at 9:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You kind of nailed it, Buckwheat; "...shelter that would serve those with substance abuse issues. Without a place for these people to go will result in more deaths this winter....". That sure does seem to be an underlying goal here, that if all the "undesirables" that SB doesn't want The Tourists or The Children seeing (addicts, mentally ill, et al) were to conveniently just die off for lack of basic services, that would "solve" part of the homeless "problem".

All that would be left then, would be the population more easily sold to funding sources, IE: women-and-children and Veterans, in that order. The leftovers...women without children, the elderly, and the disabled, would get the crumbs, if any are left. And Foley, etc, continue laughing all the way to the bank.

My question is and has always been: how much is being paid to these people who are running these nonprofit operations? Like The Schools (which also never seem to really produce what they promise), the endless aggressive panhandling of the public and assorted funding sources goes on ever thus, while millions are pushed around under the table between the people running these outfits.

Six figure incomes are commonplace in the nonprofit business; the only folks who aren't profiting are the people actually WORKING in the trenches running things, and the recipients themselves. Go look up the IRS Form 990 on any of these nonprofits; it's all public information, it's "out there", and I guarantee you will be shocked at how much money is being made in this business.

Homelessness is a huge business; much profit is made off the misery of our fellow human beings....and when the profit isn't enough to satisfy the endless appetites of the fat at the top, they shove their hands in the public's pockets even deeper, scream "broke!", and cut services to the recipients, while ensuring their paychecks are safe. Look at what happened on Wall Street. The nonprofit sector is no different, it's just better at polishing its image, and nobody dares mention that this particular Emperor is naked.

I got my education in the nonprofit sector when I worked for a few of them as one of the "worker bees" who was actually in the trenches. My rose colored glasses were ripped right off in a matter of months when I saw the truth; the CEO driving either his Porsche or his Jeep Grand Cherokee to work, wearing bespoke silk suits and taking trips while the employees made a dollar above minimum wage, had no health insurance, sick pay, retirement or other benefits, and the clientele had to beg for services.

One year, the Christmas bonus was uniform jackets with the company logo on them; we had to sit through a "we're so broke" lecture, complete with pie charts, at the company Christmas party, while the CEO and his well-paid pals at the top sat up front in their designer duds giving their power point presentation. This was, BTW, an SB nonprofit which still exists.

Holly (anonymous profile)
September 20, 2013 at 1:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I've seen others and worked for others. I went in with a rosy outlook and left disgusted with nonprofits in general. I've also witnessed firsthand the experiences of close friends and relatives who work for nonprofits; the low wages, the nonexistent benefits, the ever-increasing workloads (while wages stay the same), the lousy morale, and the guys at the top taking home six figures. Rubbing salt in the wounds is when the annual begging mailers go the low wage employees!

So...first look at the insane cost of living in SB and So Cal in general; look at wages and compare to cost of housing and goods/services. The numbers don't add up for the average income earner. This is why there are so many homeless people there compared to other places. Then look at how much money is being made in the "nonprofit" sector by the people running these businesses. I promise, the numbers are going to just blow you away.

Holly (anonymous profile)
September 20, 2013 at 1:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

In my view, a good NGO administrator is worth $100,000/year. However, a good administrator (of any kind), by necessity, has the cold heart of a banker and understands that services must be funded. It is true that the workers in the trenches in the non-profits are grossly underpaid and are thus paying the price for their own idealism and in the hopes of rising to one of the six figure jobs someday. The balance between funding and ideology is always a fraught dialectic in the non-profit world. The cold banker's heart helps to navigate that dialectic. However,in the case of the homeless, I am afraid that the problem exceeds the abilities of the NGO community and must be addressed by governmental institutions.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
September 20, 2013 at 8:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This operation was set up at this location with "community support" to get the panhandlers off State Street. That obviously did not work and all it did was grow the problem, change the character of the vagrants, become a transient magnet, and destroy our down town retail for locals all the while dumping millions of dollars into Homeless Inc's pockets.

Does anyone still need a lesson in failed progressive politics? Mean whlle Hannah Beth Jackson and Das Williams have taken no corrective responsibility for this state wide problem and the egregious misuse of Prop 43 mental health dollars dedicated to caring for the most vulnerable in this population.

Young ladies please take more care when let men impregnate you and then abandon you and your children to a life on the streets, okay?

Young men, know what role you also play in this societal degradation when you impregnate and abandon.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
October 15, 2013 at 1:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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