DignityMoves intends to provide 94 cabins to temporarily house homeless individuals on a vacant parcel owned by Santa Barbara County inside Santa Maria city limits after the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved two agreements with the organization Tuesday.
One agreement provides for DignityMoves to lease the land, while the other authorizes the nonprofit organization to develop 94 cabins on a parcel at 2131 Southside Parkway, adjacent to the County Government Center.
The 94 units will help address the existing need for 133 beds for homeless people in Santa Maria, Orcutt and Guadalupe.
Hope Village will include 54 units for homeless individuals and couples, 10 cabins for transitional-age youths ages 18 to 24 and 30 cabins for recuperative respite care, with at least 10 of those to have their own bathrooms.
The village is based on a similar DignityMoves project in Santa Barbara that proved successful.
“I think people in Santa Maria will be very pleased with what they experience up there,” 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann predicted, based on the success of the Santa Barbara project.
Hope Village has faced skepticism, concerns and some outright opposition from city residents, especially those living near the site, as well as adjacent business owners.
“There’s a lot of fear out there,” said 4th District Supervisor Bob Nelson, who with 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino have been doing outreach to the community.
“But also what we’re hearing from the community is the problem [already] exists,” Nelson continued. “They’re just not sure if this will make it better or worse.”
Santa Maria City Councilman Carlos Escobedo, speaking during public comment, supported the project.
“I think this is an effort that can address a huge Santa Maria concern,” Escobedo said.
Lavagnino said as soon as the concept was developed, the county started working with Santa Maria officials to assure it met all the city development standards.
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In a video presentation, DignityMoves board member Aaron M. Edelheit noted the county was able to self-permit the project in seven days, construction is expected to take six to nine months and people could be housed there by August or September.
By using prefabricated units, housing will be supplied at a cost of $60,000 per unit, rather than the $500,000 per unit cost for traditional new construction, according to a General Services Department report.
The Village will be developed by DignityMoves along with the county and community partners Fighting Back Santa Maria, Good Samaritan Shelter and Dignity Health’s Marian Regional Medical Center.
Total cost of project development is estimated at $6.4 million, with annual operating costs estimated at $1.6 million per year.
Funding for development will come from American Rescue Plan Act money provided by the county, a Common Spirit Homeless Health Initiative grant from Dignity Health and philanthropic donations from various sources.
Operating costs will be covered by ARPA, Homeless Housing Assistance & Prevention and Behavioral Health Bridge Housing funds.
Individuals will stay at Hope Village for 6 months to two years, with the goal of transitioning to permanent housing, and as many as 200 individuals could be served per year, according to the report.
The village will be closed at the end of five years, but because the units have a 20-year life, they will be moved to other locations in the area.
Lavagnino thanked Assistant County Executive Officer Terri Nisich for her work in spearheading and coordinating this and two previous homeless villages.
“This wouldn’t have happened without her expertise,” Lavagnino said. “ I also think that this is emblematic of what this board is about, and that is challenging the status quo. Status quo just isn’t good enough anymore.”