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Single-unit shelter programs coming to Santa Barbara and Grover Beach

Good Samaritan Lompoc pallet shelters.jpg
Good Samaritan Shelter
Pallet shelters from Isla Vista are now in Lompoc as part of Good Samaritan Shelter.

Last December, the community of Isla Vista installed tiny pallet houses to provide temporary shelter and services to individuals experiencing homelessness. This program model for housing is now coming to downtown Santa Barbara and Grover Beach.

Sylvia Barnard is the executive director of Good Samaritan Shelter, an organization that provides shelter and social services to people who live on the Central Coast. She estimates 3,000 people experience homelessness in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties combined.

“We’ve seen more and more individuals that are unsheltered living on the streets, and the encampments have grown significantly with the pandemic,” Barnard said.

Good Samaritan partnered with the County of Santa Barbara for the Isla Vista program which consisted of 20 pallet shelters for individuals from a local encampment.

Pallet shelters — or modular cabins, as they are also called — are easy to transport and install, and house one or two adults. Barnard said each unit has beds that fold down, lights, a heater, shelves, windows, and a door. Restrooms and showers are separate and shared among residents.

Throughout the 6-month program in Isla Vista, Good Samaritan provided essential services to help the individuals transition out of homelessness.

“We served 40 individuals that came straight from that encampment, and during that six month time period, 24 successfully went into permanent housing and a couple more were able to get into treatment programs,” she said.

Barnard said it was the first time this type of single-unit housing was tried on the Central Coast, though it has been used in other areas of California. With the pandemic, she said it made sense to have individual units.

In June, the pallet shelters from Isla Vista moved to Lompoc where they remain as part of the Good Samaritan Bridge House shelter program.

Now, with the support of federal funding from ARPA and CARES Act, temporary housing programs similar to the one in Isla Vista are planned for downtown Santa Barbara and Grover Beach early next year.

“A new project which is very similar that’s coming to downtown Santa Barbara that Good Samaritan will be operating is called Dignity Moves – it will be about half a block from the courthouse. They’re bringing in 33 units, and the units are created out of big storage containers,” Barnard said.

Further north, Janna Nichols, executive director of 5Cities Homeless Coalition (5CHC) in San Luis Obispo County, said they have partnered with the county and the City of Grover Beach to bring in 20 temporary pallet shelters.

“We will make use of a vacant lot that is located on the county campus in Grover Beach at 16th Street and Long Branch Avenue,” Nichols said.

She said in addition to providing shelter, the program will include intensive case management with the goal of quickly moving people into permanent housing.

“When you give people a safe place to be and can talk to them in a more thoughtful manner about where they want to go in their life, we tend to be pretty successful,” Nichols said.

Good Samaritan and 5Cities Homeless Coalition also operate emergency warming shelters during the winter months.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, and has contributed to KQED's statewide radio show The California Report.
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