A gathering of politicians, activists, young philanthropists, downtown residents, and a few people who now live in their vehicles showed up for the official ribbon-cutting at the DignityMoves tiny-home village that’s recently sprouted up on an old parking lot on the 1000 block of Santa Barbara Street. Soon, 34 people now living on the streets of downtown Santa Barbara — or in their vehicles — will be moving in to each eight-foot-by-eight-foot home by June 15.
The project is the culmination of a yearlong effort to create transitional housing for those struggling with challenges afflicting chronically homeless people while offering a range of services designed to help them get on their feet. Residents will be selected based on need, vulnerability, and likelihood of success with an emphasis on those who habituate the streets of downtown.
Spearheading the effort has been the Bay Area philanthropy DignityMoves, working in conjunction with county administrators, who in turn contracted day-to-day operations to the Good Samaritan Shelter. Elizabeth Funk of DignityMoves said offering individuals a room of their own with a door they can lock and store their belongings is key to helping people get off the streets. Sylvia Barnard of Good Samaritan vowed the operation would be a good neighbor, a key concern for an enterprise located in the heart of downtown. The model stands in distinct contrast to the traditional homeless shelter where individuals share bunk beds in a large common space. The homes themselves were designed with architectural finesse and come equipped with lighting, heating, air conditioning, and four private showers and bathrooms. Two weeks ago, supporters of the project showed up to install pillows, bed coverings, artwork in each of the project units, and doormats reading “Welcome.”