The Santa Barbara City Council approved grants of $1.4 million to 51 different nonprofit organizations, $236,000 of which was earmarked for programs directly serving the homeless. Of that, the Casa Esperanza homeless shelter received nearly half. This year’s dramatic tug-of-war involved the Independent Living Resource Center (ILRC), which got zero dollars after having qualified for Human Services Commission awards for the past 30 years. ILRC supporters showed up in strength but expressed their concerns with muted grace. They argued they hadn’t been given adequate opportunity to address misconceptions held by the volunteer members of the Human Services Commission. ILRC representatives pointed out that none of the grant funds applied for would go to pay raises as some commissioners thought. ILRC employees haven’t had a pay increase in eight years, but insurance costs have, in fact, increased.
Although the group wowed many councilmembers with their style, only Councilmembers Gregg Hart and Bendy White were inclined to provide a token amount of funding — $2,500 — to help ILRC leverage private donations, never the organization’s strong suit. “Here we are in a time in history when the safety net is fraying,” argued White. “It breaks my heart.” Mayor Helene Schneider disagreed, arguing that the city’s vetting process needs to be respected. But she did offer to help ILRC — which helps people with a range of developmental challenges achieve independence, including those cross-disabled, seniors, and veterans — with its fundraising efforts in her capacity as a private citizen. The group will clearly need it. Its executive director of the past 25 years, Jo Black, is retiring this year, and next year, ILRC’s five-year grant cycle — worth $80,000 a year in federal-stimulus funds — runs out. Councilmembers urged the ILRC, which runs programs out of four offices in three counties, to reapply next year