On December 7, Women’s Fund members and guests gathered at the Marjorie Luke Theatre for a Grants In Action forum to hear from leaders of three local nonprofit organizations that, combined, received $250,000 in 2022 Women’s Fund grants for projects that provide wrap-around services in rebuilding lives and securing housing for those experiencing homelessness.
The featured grantees were: SB ACT (Santa Barbara Alliance for Community Transformation) which coordinates Neighborhood Navigation Centers; DignityMoves which provides interim supportive housing; and Channel Islands YMCA’s program of street outreach for homeless and runaway youth.
Sylvia Barnard, Executive Director of Good Samaritan Shelter, began the forum with an informative and moving keynote address focused on the successful collaborations providing emergency, transitional, and affordable housing throughout Santa Barbara County.
At the forum, it was reported that the number of people experiencing homelessness in the 2022 Santa Barbara County Point-In-Time count was 1,962, a slight increase from 2020 (1,897). 70% are sheltered (about half in cars) and 30% remain unsheltered. The City of Santa Barbara has the largest number of homeless people with 822.
Encouraging findings reported by the James S. Bower Foundation and Ben Romo & Associates showed that since the first quarter of 2020, local system leaders have helped place 2,059 formerly homeless people into permanent housing with a 98.4% one-year retention rate. From 2017 until now, local leaders have managed to deploy 920 more permanent housing units, shelter beds, and rapid rehousing units, up from 1,830.
In addition, the number of people placed and retaining their placement for at least a year has increased steadily over time, showing the effectiveness of permanent housing as an important part of the solution to homelessness.
The report concluded that “without the commendable efforts and accomplishments of local system leaders, homelessness in our county would have doubled since the beginning of the pandemic.”
Jack Lorenz, Chief Advancement Officer for DignityMoves, shared a video that explained how 34 newly constructed, 8x8 feet, portable, modular, private living spaces have been a game changer in transitioning unsheltered people off the streets. These units were built in nine months for $50,000 each on city-provided property, leased at no cost for three years. He reported that one-third of those now housed at the site have acquired jobs, the site is at full capacity, and there is a waiting list to get in.
The site has been so successful that 300 more homes have been approved to be constructed in 2023 at four new sites in Santa Barbara County. “DignityMoves is a proof of concept that is being replicated to address the need for more housing,” Lorenz said. The Women’s Fund grant of $75,000 helped fund the construction of a private, on-site case management office at the 1016 Santa Barbara Street site.
Landon Ranck, Operations Manager for SB ACT (Santa Barbara Alliance for Community Transformation), showed a video that demonstrated how Neighborhood Navigation Centers bring together more than 20 local organizations to provide homeless individuals with access to food, healthcare, mental health support, hygiene facilities, and other services that can assist in moving them into some form of housing.
Ranck described SB ACT as “a neutral convener helping to bring providers together in places where homeless people gather.” The Women’s Fund grant of $100,000 is helping to pay for part-time staff to operate the Navigation Centers at sites located at Carrillo and Castillo Streets, Yanonali Street and Calle Cesar Chavez, and Micheltorena and Anacapa Streets.
In another video, Jennifer Heinen-Stiffler, Chief Operations Officer for the Channel Islands YMCA and representing its Youth and Family Services programs, reported on the progress in renovating the Street Outreach drop-in center located in downtown Santa Barbara.
Street Outreach specifically addresses the needs of young people 18-to-24 years old who are experiencing or are at risk for homelessness. Heinen-Stiffler explained how the program has been successful in helping teens and young adults reunite with their families or find stable living arrangements. The $75,000 Women’s Fund grant funded a year of rent for a dedicated drop-in center, which will increase access to confidential case management and support services.
The forum concluded with a panel discussion of these three community leaders led by Women’s Fund member Marybeth Carty, Executive Director of the Natalie Orfalea Foundation. Panelists answered questions about how their projects are achieving their goals, and they described opportunities for Women’s Fund members to further assist their programs through volunteering, donating goods, and by other means.
For more information about all Women's Fund grants and the agencies that received them, go to our Current Grantees page.
Photo at top - Left to right: Kathy Hollis (WF events team), Landon Ranck (SB ACT), Jennifer Heinen-Stiffler (Channel Islands YMCA), Jack Lorenz (DignityMoves), Sylvia Barnard (Good Samaritan Shelter), Marybeth Carty (WF moderator), Lynn Karlson (WF Board Chair), and Forum planners: Margaret Crocco and Janessa Van Vechten.