Credit: Nick Welsh

It’s not pennies from heaven per se, maybe more like manna from above. This week, the federal government distributed 289 emergency housing vouchers — worth $3 million — to Santa Barbara County for those in imminent danger of becoming homeless or for those who actually are. For those working the trenches of homeless outreach efforts, these vouchers provide tangible hope that there’s an actual there there when it comes to getting people off the streets and under a roof.

These funds are courtesy of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which set aside $5 billion nationwide for homeless housing vouchers. Distributing the vouchers — and vetting the applicants — will be the Housing Authority agencies for the city and the county of Santa Barbara.

Unlike other subsidized federal housing vouchers, this infusion of cash will provide landlords signing bonuses of $1,500 per voucher leased up. In addition, it provides $2,000 in protective insurance should it prove necessary, not to mention one month’s rent worth of security deposits per voucher-leased household. In exchange, the County of Santa Barbara has pledged to provide residents up to three years’ worth of supportive services for each client leased up.

These funds are coming available just as the City of Santa Barbara — via City Net, a faith-based nonprofit specializing in homeless outreach — has assumed management and control of the Rose Garden Inn, a motel located on upper State Street. This motel will be used for four months to provide alternative housing to people who until recently were residing in urban encampments deemed to be high fire risks.

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