The tenants of Pescadero Lofts (761 Camino Pescadero Rd., Isla Vista) milled about the building’s dining hall, checking out the various booths manned by enthusiastic volunteers and figuring out what they wanted to try first. Each of the long tables — stretching all the way down to the all-white, inflatable photo booth — had a pile of candy on it, and fans dotting the room defended participants from the already warm summer air.
For a couple hours on Saturday, Aug. 15, Pescadero Lofts, which opened last November and houses over 30 formerly homeless individuals, became the focal point of community cooperation with its Day of Service, a project put on by Le’ Wanda Croft, a student of Antioch University Santa Barbara’s Women & Leadership Certificate Program. As part of the program’s curriculum, students need to complete an Experiential Learning Project.
“When we very first built the property, we were planning to have a day where we could help them kind of transition into being housed and no longer homeless,” said Croft, who works for the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara. “That was my motivation — that they are needing it and that we’re wanting to help them.”
Local volunteers and businesses joined forces to provide tenants with a variety of free services and amenities not readily accessible to those who have only just transitioned from the streets to having a roof above their heads. Santa Barbara City College Cosmetology Academy cut residents’ hair while Goleta’s Goodland Barber Shop trimmed beards. Santa Barbara’s My Social Booth provided the cube-shaped photo tent, reminiscent of a red carpet after-party activity. The Santa Barbara County Food Bank and Housing Authority teamed up to provide the event’s food, along with contributions from Hollister Avenue sandwich restaurant Sam’s 2 U.
Additionally, Patagonia donated a variety of apparel for the event and Goleta Family Dental provided an array of toiletries. Over a dozen local volunteers managed the events’ booths and services, and residents were even provided with new Deckers shoes based on shoe-size measurements taken prior to the event.
“I had to get it approved by my instructor, and then I had to get it approved by the Housing Authority,” said Croft. “I think I actually started with the Santa Barbara City College. That was just what we were going to do — just free haircuts. And then after that, I just called all the different businesses and gave them my spiel and asked them to donate their time and equipment.”
Some of Pescadero Lofts’ residents had been homeless for as long as 20 or even 30 years before moving into the 26 studio and six one-bedroom apartments in December and January. One of the residents, Mark, spoke of his journey to Pescadero Lofts and the day’s activities. A tow truck driver in San Francisco for much of the ’70s and ’80s, he made his way down to Isla Vista several years ago. Wearing his brand new blue Deckers sneakers, Mark was glad to see the apartments’ hall fitted out and utilized for such practical purposes.
Even with all the local support the housing project has received since its inception, Croft anticipates that the Day of Service will spark future community-sponsored, grassroots events like hers.
“I definitely think that it’ll be a jumpstart,” she said. “And maybe they’ll choose to have an event similar to this next year.”