Mayor Helene Schneider was on hand to speak, a ribbon was ceremonially cut, young kids wearing celebratory yellow T-shirts sang and danced, and speeches were given. All this hubbub constituted an unusually loud celebration for one of the town’s quietest, most low-key nonprofits — the Turner Foundation — which just celebrated its 10th anniversary providing very low-income people with affordable housing in Santa Barbara.
As part of the celebration, Turner officials announced the availability of seven rental units located on San Andres Street near Micheltorena Street on the city’s Westside. These units were gutted and rehabbed thanks to $275,000 in Community Development Block Grant loans extended courtesy of Santa Barbara City Hall, and they’re part of a 45-unit complex the Turner Foundation bought two years ago, now dubbed the Lighthouse.
The nonprofit started out 10 years ago buying a 66-unit complex on the 500 block of West Canon Perdido Street, which at the time of purchase was generating about 200 calls for service a year to the Santa Barbara Police Department. The Turner Foundation, a faith-based operation originating in Riverside, offers a wide range of actively administered social services to go along with the affordable housing. That includes music instruction, after-school tutorials, and summer camp for the kids.
Since Turner took over the Village, the calls for service have abated dramatically. Turner didn’t inherit such dramatic issues at its recent acquisition, the Lighthouse, but there were issues. The nonprofit discovered 15 single adult males occupying a one-bedroom apartment, paying $100 for bunk beds stacked floor to ceiling.
Turner administrators slowly ratcheted down the housing density at the clean and well-run building, gradually relocating the tenants. In recent years, Turner has become more involved in efforts to provide housing for people transitioning from living in cars — or on the streets — giving special focus to homeless veterans. As rents have gone up, finding landlords willing to accept Section 8 housing vouchers has become a bigger challenge. In response, the Turner Foundation has increased the number of Section 8 recipients from 20 percent to 50.