Now that the controversial 40 “Tiny Home” emergency homeless shelter development proposed for the commuter parking lot at Carrillo and Castillo streets has been yanked from consideration, the powers-that-be are seeking to cobble together a scaled back project that will cost significantly less than the original but will provide some of the same services, though without providing any new housing.
Using emergency state funds focusing on the most vulnerable and chronically homeless, the City of Santa Barbara is proposing to spend $2 million over the next 30 months; of that, Cottage Health will get $717,000, the Santa Barbara Police Department will get $410,000, and an Orange County-based street outreach nonprofit known as CityNet will get $873,000.
Cottage will be paid to provide one nurse practitioner who will accompany a police officer assigned to the “restorative” homeless detail. Together they will make their rounds, targeting individuals who frequently take up time and space in the County Jail and in Cottage’s emergency rooms. In addition, Cottage will be reimbursed for the services of a staff “site navigator,” who helps connect such individuals to existing services.
The $873,000 to CityNet will fund five positions dedicated to an aggressive brand of street outreach. In the initial proposal, unveiled in early November, the state homeless grant would also fund 40 mobile home trailers on the Carrillo commuter lot. By housing the most vulnerable and often most service resistant — however transitionally — the hope was they could be connected directly and efficiently with services. Neighbors were alarmed at the size of the project and the late notice; they were first alerted less than three days before the issue first went to the City Council.
The political blowback was intense and immediate; ultimately, the project got approval for $4.5 million less than proposed. In response, the tiny home component was dropped and the Housing Authority has opted to pursue another approach. “We still think the best way to cure homelessness is to provide homes,” explained director Rob Fredericks. The Housing Authority will still kick in $850,000 in voucher assistance so long as services can be provided at the housing involved.
The $2 million grant is expected to work in tandem with the new 32-bed space the Salvation Army intends to build on Chapala Street across from its downtown headquarters.