This Thanksgiving, local organizations are working hard to ensure that Santa Barbara’s homeless will have something to be thankful for.
Several organizations in Santa Barbara, Goleta and Isla Vista have already held canned food drives, while others will be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless and for disadvantaged families in the area.
Austin McIntosh, food services director at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, said the mission will hold its annual dinner for the homeless today, the day before Thanksgiving. The mission usually distributes about 400 to 500 meals at the event, in addition to feeding its 80 full-time residents. The mission received a large number of donated turkeys after a local radio station asked its listeners to help out with the event, McIntosh said.
“We’ve been cooking turkeys for about two weeks,” McIntosh said. “We’re swimming in turkeys right now.”
The mission is currently the only organization that provides daily services for the homeless; it opens every night at 6:30 to provide food, warmth and bathing facilities.
“Right now, until the city shelter opens on Dec. 1, we are the only place in town offering walk-in meals and walk-in showers,” McIntosh said.
The rescue mission is not the only place gearing up for Thanksgiving. The Santa Barbara Hospitality House, a homeless shelter run by the Salvation Army, will also be hosting its annual dinner from noon to 3:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Gale Trowbridge, director of community homeless outreach for the Hospitality House, said the house ran out of food last year, but that supplies should not be a problem this year.
“We anticipate about 150 to 200 people at the dinner,” Trowbridge said. “We usually have about 350 to 400, but this year the Cacique Street Center is holding their dinner at the same time.”
Jose Figueroa, shelter aide at the Cacique Street Center, which provides various services to the homeless, said the center also has an annual Thanksgiving dinner. This year, the two dinners coincide, considerably lightening the load on each organization. Figueroa said he was not certain how many people to expect, but he is not worried about running out of food.
“I don’t know, probably 200, 300 people will show up,” Figueroa said. “We have plenty of food.”
However, not every organization has the resources to host a Thanksgiving dinner. Father John Steve of St. Athanasius Antiochian Orthodox Church in I.V. said the fire code does not allow his church to have a kitchen facility, so they have no means of preparing such a meal. Instead, some members of the congregation will be inviting the homeless into their own homes for dinner.
“We are quietly making arrangements with some folks to share dinners,” Steve said. “Some people will be opening their homes [to the homeless].”
The church also received donations of canned food from a benefit concert held in Anisq’ Oyo’ Park in I.V. John Ilias, CEO of Roam Productions, the company that organized the event, and a senior business economics major, said he was pleased with the results of the event.
“We raised over 120 cans of food,” Ilias said.
Ilias said he also sent some of the food to the UCSB Community Affairs Board for distribution. James To, assistant director for community affairs at C.A.B., said the organization was able to put together 35 baskets of food to give to low-income families in the I.V. area.
The Santa Barbara Transition House will be providing meals to current and former residents this Thanksgiving, Executive Director Kathleen Baushke said. The transition house helps disadvantaged families with children become self-supporting, providing such families with somewhere to live for approximately two to three months. Some organizations, like the First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara, chose to donate their resources to places like the transition house, Baushke said.
“We get donations from a number of faith-based organizations in the Santa Barbara area,” Baushke said.
A homeless man in I.V. who identified himself as Harmonica Pirate said he knew about the various Thanksgiving programs in the area.
“I’ve got a ticket for a Thanksgiving dinner,” Pirate said. “They passed tickets out to everyone.”
Pirate said nearly every homeless person he knew was planning on going to one dinner or another and that he himself was planning on heading downtown.
“We usually go to Santa Barbara,” Pirate said. “I think I’ll go to the dinner at Cacique Street.”