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Good Samaritan Shelter

Good Samaritan Shelter staff members, from left, Sandra Jimenez, Jake Weaver and Eric Justice talk in the main shelter on Tuesday afternoon. The organization, which helps the homeless, has received Community Development Block grant money from Santa Maria in the past to help fund programs.

Addressing homelessness topped the list of priorities for federal grant dollars adopted by Santa Maria City Council members on Tuesday. 

The priorities adopted unanimously by council members slightly revised last year’s priorities, which were preventing homelessness, addressing at-risk youth and special population needs, expanding educational and youth development opportunities, providing affordable housing and revitalizing existing neighborhoods.

The word “youth” was removed from expanding educational and youth development opportunities to make it more inclusive of adult-oriented programs, in action Tuesday, and “providing affordable housing and revitalizing existing neighborhoods” was split in two, prioritizing more affordable housing. 

The council's move comes just months after the Santa Barbara County 2019 Point in Time count showed a nearly 10% increase in homeless individuals in Santa Maria from 2017. By contrast, the rest of the county as a whole, along with the cities of Lompoc, Santa Barbara and Goleta, saw slight decreases in their homeless counts.

The council’s vote will establish the priorities that are used by the Block Grant Advisory Committee and City Council when determining what organizations and projects should receive a share of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money the city receives each year. 

Community Programs Manager Rosie Rojo said the revisions were adopted based on input received during the Block Grants Advisory Community community needs meeting last month and from more than 200 in-person and electronic survey responses. 

For the current fiscal year, the city received $1.75 million in CDBG money, the largest piece of which was allocated for a reconstruction of the Paul Nelson Aquatics Center

Past grants have been awarded to the Good Samaritan Shelter, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, the Salvation Army, to fund improvements at Russell Park and the renovation of the teen center at the Boys & Girls Club. 

The new Depot Street location of the Santa Maria Wisdom Center — which provides adult day care services for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other debilitating condition — was the recipient of $194,000 in grant money. 

In other business, the City Council heard a presentation from the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce about its work promoting the city to tourists and attracting investment and business development during the 2018-19 fiscal year. 

Jennifer Harrison, director of the Chamber’s Visitors Bureau, said highlights of the year included partnering with the city to bring the Santa Maria Valley Wine Trolley back for its third season, launching the Restaurant Week promotion and awarding over $50,000 in special projects grants to organizations hosting events in the Santa Maria area, like the Bent Axles Car Club and the Santa Maria Fairpark. The grants are used for advertising events outside the Santa Maria area. 

Suzanne Singh, director of the Chamber’s Economic Development Commission, said highlights included A.T. Still University’s announcement of its Santa Maria campus and the relocation of dental supply company Preat and software firm Auspient from San Luis Obispo County to Santa Maria. 

Next steps for the Chamber include working with organizations like Cal Poly and the Hourglass Project to promote the Central Coast as a region and supporting the start-up of A.T. Still University’s campus, which is set to welcome its first class of students next summer. 

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Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed

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City Government

Razi Syed covers city government for the Santa Maria Times. He is a graduate of Fresno State University and New York University.