On August 13, the Rona Barrett Foundation (RBF) hosted a Montecito Garden Party to raise awareness and funds for the next phase of its senior affordable housing — Harry’s House — which it is developing in partnership with the Housing Authority of the City of S.B. (HASBARCO) on the same Santa Ynez campus as the Golden Inn & Village, also a partnership with HASBARCO.
About 80 guests enjoyed an afternoon reception on the lovely grounds of the Riven Rock home of Kohanya and Scott Groff. During the program, Advisory Boardmember Anne Towbes shared, with warmth and passion, that many low-income seniors have been lucky to be able to reside at the Golden Inn & Village (GIV), and now Harry’s House will offer 60 more units, this time in a congregate care facility for more frail seniors. “In today’s challenging world,” Towbes remarked, “our diminutive Rona has achieved a Herculean task.” Calling Barrett her “SBC,” sister by choice, Towbes remarked that “Rona’s spirit is so extensive and expansive, I hang on her every word, hoping to learn how to live such a purposeful life.”
Barrett, of Hollywood gossip-reporting fame, explained how her father instilled in her a desire to help others and explained how when she came to the Santa Ynez Valley many years ago, she became concerned about low-income seniors there and pondered the fate of her own father if she could not take care of him. A 12-year process culminated in the opening of GIV in 2016, providing 40 one-bedroom and 20 studio units for low-income seniors and a multitude of programs and services for these residents.
RBF made the initial purchase of the 7.3 acre parcel of land for the projects. HASBARCO assisted with the land acquisition financing, financed (largely through state-issued low-income tax credits) and oversaw the construction of the facility, and maintains and operates it as project-based voucher housing (Section 8 Housing). RBF offers programs and services for residents, which it deems crucial for the residents’ well-being, all free of charge. These include six meals per week, medical screenings, a computer lab, arts and crafts classes, game days, and music performances.
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According to HASBARCO Executive Director Bob Havlicek, the income of many of the residents served by his agency is limited to Social Security payments of only $800-$1,000 per month. When HASBARCO began accepting applications for the 60 units, it quickly received more than 500.
Harry’s House, a $30-plus million project named after Barrett’s father, is a similar partnership with HASBARCO, but with a different level of care: It will serve more frail seniors who can still live independently — they don’t need a costly assisted-living facility — but need or want some services. HASBARCO will offer a package of services to residents, including all meals, light housekeeping, and transportation, for $425 per month. RBF will provide supplemental services and programs to enrich residents’ lives, all free of charge.
A facility offering this level of care always has been part of Barrett’s vision. And according to Havlicek, demand for this market niche is growing. In the City of Santa Barbara, both Gardens on Hope and Garden Court offer this level of care, but Havlicek noted that he is not aware of any other developments in the country that do so. Harry’s House, with 60 studios, is slated for completion in July 2023.
Havlicek shared that HASBARCO is happy to be partnering with RBF again to create this tremendous community asset. Without RBF, Havlicek noted, Harry’s House would not have happened. Barrett, according to Havlicek, is a relentless, fierce advocate for seniors, and HASBARCO appreciates her passion. RBF is currently raising funds to furnish common areas at Harry’s House and to fund a vehicle for transporting residents, as well as for its ongoing wellness and social programs at GIV.
For more info, go to ronabarrettfoundation.org.