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Santa Barbara considering tiny homes for the homeless

Courtesy of the City of Santa Barbara
When presenting to the council, city staff included this photograph of a tiny home as an example.

Santa Barbara may be adding some tiny homes to the city's housing stock. In hopes of securing more than $6 million in funding, the Santa Barbara City Council approved a grant application Tuesday that would provide money for 40 tiny houses for the city’s homeless population.

In addition to providing indoor protection from the elements, the facility would have electricity, common showers and restrooms. Meals would be provided by a local nonprofit, and the site would have support services, an on-site manager and 24/7 security.

Tessa Madden-Storms is with People Assisting the Homeless or PATH, an organization aimed at ending homelessness in Santa Barbara. At Tuesday’s city council meeting, she said getting some people into safe and stable home-like environments can be the first step to helping them find jobs, accessing benefits, and making healthcare appointments.

“We have folks that will move in from the streets into a permanent home,” Madden-Storms said. “They might not touch the shelter system. Some people need the intervention of the shelter system, so it’s really taking that 'whatever it takes approach' and understanding that every client we serve is a little bit different, but understanding that the home is at the center of that and at the center of every person that we touch.”

Critics of the proposal said the tiny homes would displace about 150 city-owned parking spots on the corner of Castillo and Carrillo Streets. Others, like Mike Rider, expressed concerns that the grant application was rushed and wondered why other locations weren’t being considered. He said his daughter lives in the area of the proposed tiny homes, and neighbors already have safety concerns.

“There is a large homeless population that already lived there,” Rider said. “And [residents] encounter those people in their backyards, in their front yards, in their yards—walking through—it is not a safe place families for this reason.”

The funds Santa Barbara officials hope to secure would come from California’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program, or HEAP, which was recently enacted to provide $500 million in grants to cities and counties that have declared homeless emergencies. HEAP will begin distributing funds in early 2019.

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