Operators of Santa Barbara’s homeless shelter, PATH (People Assisting The Homeless), were put on notice last week that county supervisors were decidedly unhappy with their recent announcement to cut back on emergency winter shelter services this year. With supervisors Das Williams and Janet Wolf leading the charge, the board told PATH administrators that the reimbursement for emergency shelter services would be reduced commensurate with the cuts. Williams and Wolf made it clear they were unhappy with the short warning they’d received and the lack of consultation.
In addition, the supervisors announced they’d be conducting a complete audit on all the different county funds from which revenues are drawn to pay for homeless services at the shelter. “We may be paying twice for the same bed,” Williams said.
Typically, PATH provides emergency shelter service of 100 beds of a night between December and March. This year, however, PATH announced it would provide the beds only on nights when the temperature dipped below 40 or the chance of rain exceeded 50 percent two days in a row. The timing of PATH’s announcement could not have been worse; the Rescue Mission is also reducing its number of beds by 50 because of a major construction project scheduled to last eight months.
PATH administrators insist they’ve kept all stakeholders in the loop. They argue that the population of homeless people drawn to the emergency shelter — usually those with little interest in programs that boost their chances of getting housed — is incompatible with the shelter’s year-round population of individuals focused on various rehabilitation programs and securing permanent housing. Although shelter administrators were in attendance at last week’s board meeting, they opted not to address the supervisors’ complaints.