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Santa Barbara County partners with local nonprofits to provide interim housing and services

Modular housing units located in downtown Santa Barbara
Modular housing units located on county-owned land in downtown Santa Barbara.

A new modular housing village in downtown Santa Barbara is now ready for residents. The project will provide temporary shelter and services for individuals experiencing homelessness.

Santa Barbara County partnered with Good Samaritan Shelter and DignityMoves, a California-based non-profit, on the housing project. The goal is to create an interim housing community to help individuals living on the streets transition to permanent housing. The 35 units are located on Santa Barbara Street in downtown Santa Barbara.

“It’s a piece of land that is owned by the county. They have plans to build permanent housing there in the future, but as we know these permanent housing projects often take years, so in the meantime, we are setting up these little units on that property,” said Elizabeth Funk, Founder and CEO of DignityMoves.

She said the portable units are similar to a dorm room with a bed, desk, and chair. Each room has a door that locks to provide privacy in a safe setting.

“When you’re on the streets, you’re in survival mode, you’re in fight or flight mode, and you can’t possibly think about rebuilding your life,” Funk said.

Restrooms, laundry facilities, and dining area are shared among residents. Good Samaritan Shelter will provide onsite access to critical social services to assist individuals as they transition out of homelessness and into more permanent housing.

“In terms of who gets to come and stay at the project, we are prioritizing people who have been sleeping or living in the immediate area,” Funk said.

She said the project cost about $1.7 million dollars to build, with $1 million raised from private donors and the other $700,000 from the county. The county will cover yearly operating costs.

Lisa Plowman, Director of Planning and Development for Santa Barbara County, said the project is a positive step for the community.

“The DignityMoves project is an example of where the County Board of Supervisors made a commitment to providing housing on county-owned land. Those units are going to meet the needs for people who are of the highest need in our community,” Plowman said.

Housing communities like this often meet opposition from nearby residents, but Elizabeth Funk from DignityMoves said that the location has onsite staff and the Santa Barbara community has been supportive of the project.

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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