Casa Esperanza, now officially Santa Barbara Path, has started its winter season but has yet to hit its maximum capacity of 200 residents.
Paul Wellman (file)

The Santa Barbara City Council conceptually approved plans for Casa Esperanza, the largest homeless shelter on the South Coast, to merge with a Los Angeles nonprofit, People Assisting The Homeless (PATH), which boasts 30 years experience operating shelters in 22 communities from San Diego to San Luis Obispo.

PATH executive Joel John Roberts underscored his organization’s commitment to transitioning people from the streets into housing — he claimed PATH helped house 4,200 people — rather than just providing shelter and food. In addition, Roberts stressed the need to “wow” the neighbors in communities where PATH operates. Given Casa Esperanza’s tumultuous relations with some Milpas Street businesses, this was music to the councilmembers’ ears.

PATH’s involvement promises to inject both financial stability and expertise to an enterprise born out of public-private partnership backed strongly — and generously — by City Hall. For the merger to go through, PATH needed assurances that the permits held by Casa Esperanza could be transferred and that City Hall would continue funding the shelter out of several separate funds, this year to the tune of $400,000.

City Attorney Ariel Calonne stated much work remained to be done hammering out details, but in concept not one discouraging word was heard. If all goes according to schedule, the merger should be complete by July. Casa Esperanza operates a year-round shelter of 100 beds and a winter shelter with 100 more. PATH currently has 400 beds in its many shelters, but 1,500 units of transitional housing.


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