The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved a new emergency, 50-bed shelter for houseless individuals in Isla Vista — currently titled the El Colegio project — during their June 15 meeting.
The shelter’s date of operation is not confirmed, and it will potentially be named the “Hedges House of Hope” in honor of Father Jon-Stephen Hedges, a community organizer, spiritual leader and social justice advocate known for his work with the houseless community in Isla Vista.
This project will be handled and run by Good Samaritan Shelter — an agency that works to provide temporary, emergency and/or transitional housing and support services for houseless residents. Houseless residents will be directly referred to the shelter through a coordinated entry system operated by service providers from Good Samaritan, and the shelter will not take any drop-in or walk-up services.
The approval of the new emergency shelter follows the six-month pallet homes operation at the Isla Vista Community Center, also operated by Good Samaritan and concluded in June 2021.
“Good Sam works with everyone, and there’s going to be [service providers] around the clock,” Gina Fischer, district representative and scheduler in the office of supervisor Joan Hartmann, said.
“You have different service providers to help individuals based on their individual circumstances, and Good Sam works with [houseless residents] in a very compassionate way to set benchmarks goals for them to end homeless on an individual-by-individual basis.”
After attempts to purchase facilities like motels to temporarily house houseless residents fell through, Frank Thompson, a housing consultant who works with non-profit, public and for-profit developers on housing projects for houseless residents, presented the El Colegio project to the county, according to Fischer.
“This was one of those very rare deals that we were able to make,” Fischer said. “We are constantly looking for structures like this to house our unhoused.”
Houseless residents in the immediate area of Isla Vista will be prioritized, and the shelter will focus on helping its residents stabilize their life goals, necessary documents for housing and other processes of rehabilitation.
“Just like they were in the pallet homes, [the residents] will be called to put together incremental life goals … whether that’s a 30-day plan to commit to get their documents ready so that they can get [permanent] housing,” Fischer said.
A resident at the shelter is anticipated to stay for about 150 days before they are able to transition into permanent housing, but there is no hard deadline for any individual to move out.
“There’s no expiration of, you have to move out by this date,” Fischer said. “We saw at the pallet homes, some are able to move out in a much shorter time, some need longer, it’s really down to the individual.”
Essential services include navigating through housing, health care, behavioral health, substance use and more, according to a press release by the Santa Barbara County Community Services Department. Operations will focus on each individual and their specific needs in accessing and transitioning to permanent housing.
Staff will be available 24 hours a day, and security will be provided every night from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. No illegal substance or alcohol use will be permitted on site.
The shelter is a dorm style building with 20 rooms, totaling up to 60 bed areas, multiple bathrooms, a kitchen and a dining area. Funding is provided by state and federal sources.