Virgil Cordano Homeless Day Center Reopens

Santa Barbara Sanctuary Once Again Providing ‘Quiet, Peace, and a Nice Place to Rest’

The Fr. Virgil Cordano Center provides a place to sit, clean up, enjoy a meal, get one’s mail, and clean one’s laundry. | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

The only day center for homeless people in Santa Barbara reopened late this July and is once again providing “quiet, peace, and a nice place to rest” for those with no place to go.

Located in a strip mall on Calle Real by Highway 154, the Fr. Virgil Cordano Center has reopened its doors in the face of a COVID-19 pandemic surge and is offering reduced services to a reduced number. The upper limit now is no more than 11 guests at any given time; prior to COVID, the center would see up to 40 visitors a day, said Father John Hardin with the Franciscan Friars of the Old Mission Santa Barbara, who, along with the Daughters of Charity at St. Vincent’s, quietly got the center up and running a couple of years ago. 

Open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., the center provides a place to sit, clean up, enjoy a meal, get one’s mail, and clean one’s laundry. 

“It’s all about trust,” explained Hardin. “The whole thing is to get these people to trust you so you can help get them to the next step.” 

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To that end, he said, guests are not asked where they came from. “We don’t want to intrude,” he explained. Instead, the center provides a social worker to help those on the streets navigate their way through the various bureaucratic mazes needed to get into housing. “With all the paperwork involved, you need to be a PhD to figure it out,” he added. 

It doesn’t hurt any that Lazy Acres and Bristol Farms have agreed to provide the food for the breakfasts and lunches served. 

The Cordano Center — named after Fr. Virgil Cordano, the face of the Old Mission for many decades — shut down April 2021 when the pandemic achieved critical mass. For many months, Hardin and a group of lay volunteers prepared about 140 brown bag lunches a couple of days a week, which they distributed in various parks throughout the city. As the pandemic ground on, Hardin said, the initiative had trouble maintaining its base of volunteers — most in their seventies— and efforts to find larger digs on the city’s Eastside came up short. 

In response to the increasing number of hot days, the center has leased out the adjoining storefront, which will be used as a cooling center when the temperature dictates.

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