The Santa Barbara County Freedom Warming Center program and CommUnify's Senior Nutrition Program are seeing their responsibilities taken over by new organizations amid funding and organizational challenges. 

Both organizations are also requesting that their respective $15,000 Community Development Block Grant funding allocations, approved by the Santa Maria City Council in June, be transferred to the agencies taking over their responsibilities as a result. 

Leadership of the warming center program, a grassroots effort operated by the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara County since 2009 with a volunteer workforce, was transferred to Good Samaritan Shelter on July 1 after various attempts to bolster funding for the program. 

According to Unitarian Society lead minister Julia Hamilton, Good Samaritan's partnership since the program's inception and their expertise in homeless services made them a good fit for the role of fiscal agent.  

"Over the last few years, it has become evident that the warming centers need an organization with greater fiscal and administrative capacity to support the growth of this vital service: an organization whose core mission is to serve our houseless neighbors," Hamilton said. 

CommUnify, formerly the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County, decided to the end their Senior Nutrition Program in May after incurring financial losses of nearly $4 million as service costs have risen.  

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According to city Community Development Director Chuen Ng, CommUnify's CDBG funding now will be transferred to Meals on Wheels, which will take on daily meal services for the approximately 700 seniors formerly served through the Senior Nutrition Program. 

If the Santa Maria City Council approves the CDBG changes at their Tuesday meeting, allocated CDBG funding for both Good Samaritan Shelter and Meals on Wheels will nearly double to approximately $35,000 each.

"The two proposed changes … would allow CDBG funding to be used to meet the needs of the same group of beneficiaries initially proposed in the original action plan, as the programs and services remain the same," Ng said. "The only difference is the agencies offering the programs and services." 

However, he noted the additional funding would put both groups over the permitted funding cap for CDBG public service allocations, which limits each organization to no more than 10% of the city's total funding, or around $24,000. 

Due to the circumstances, staff are requesting that the city grant an exception to the rule, Ng said. 

The agenda for the Council's Tuesday meeting is available online at cityofsantamaria.civicweb.net. Community members can now attend meetings in person or continue to view them virtually on the city's YouTube page.

Series: Recent Santa Maria City Council coverage

Read this collection of stories on Santa Maria City Council from the past year. Read all of our coverage of local government in the Santa Maria Valley on SantaMariaTimes.com.

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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