Nick Welsh’s column about Casa Esperanza’s Free Lunch program was off the mark. The ongoing expansion of the Free Lunch program has attracted more and more freeloaders. The increasingly ill effects of public bad behavior, in the form of vagrancy, aggressive panhandling, drunkenness, drug dealing, prostitution, and crime, has finally gotten to the point where both local residents and business owners are organizing to push back on Casa Esperanza’s Free Lunch program.
While Mike Foley, as Director of Casa Esperanza, has to walk a tough line, he also deflects responsibility for the decay of the neighborhood to everyone else but Casa Esperanza. According to Foley, it’s the city’s fault, or the SBPD’s problem, or the local liquor stores out to make a buck, or generous tourists giving out spare change, or even local businesses and residents who just have to accept it because Santa Barbara has always had homeless. Nowhere does Mr. Foley consider that Casa Esperanza’s expanding Free Lunch program negatively impacts the entire Milpas community, nor does he suggest implementing a program that requires accountability and participation from its recipients beyond just showing up.
It’s not heartless to question Casa Esperanza’s operations; it’s responsible caring for the entire community. The good news is that local residents and business owners are banding together to reclaim their neighborhood. We are thankful that at least three of the City Council members appear to be listening.—Bruce Giffin, S.B.
Hopefully, last week’s Angry Poodle Barbecue opened some eyes to the difficult times we’re living in and how it is affecting the homeless even more. I’m sure you’ll receive many negative opinions, but I really appreciated your frankness. I volunteer at Casa Esperanza and personally know they’re making a difference in peoples’ lives. Presently, I am doing life histories on the women. Needless to say, the stories are horrific. This generational cycle must be broken.—Carole Fox, S.B.