Dignity Moves Presents at the Montecito Association

By Sharon Byrne   |   May 23, 2023
Last year, Dignity Moves installed 34 tiny homes on a county courthouse lot (Courtesy photo)

At our board meeting on May 9th, we had two surprises:

We did our first hybrid meeting at the Montecito Fire Station on San Ysidro Rd., and we sure appreciate their hosting us. 

We welcomed Jack Lorenz from Dignity Moves as our guest speaker, and he wowed the crowd in person and online.

The Hands Across Montecito outreach team already knew Dignity Moves. Kath Washburn, one of our founding members, had adopted one of the Dignity Moves units in downtown Santa Barbara, outfitting it with welcoming items for the new residents, who would be individuals experiencing homelessness in the downtown area. Kath arranged a tour for us, and we were solidly impressed – 34 tiny homes had been constructed on a county courthouse lot using private donations. Services to help people leave homelessness would be on site, provided by Good Samaritan, another agency we work with. We referred one of our Hands Across Montecito clients to Dignity Moves downtown.

Jack Lorenz of Dignity Moves (Courtesy photo)

It’s been open for almost a year now, and Jack gave a pretty impressive update. 

Of the 34 individuals that had moved into Dignity Moves:

-Eight found jobs

-Nine transitioned to stable housing

-29 connected to health care, and 28 connected to mental health services

-All residents work with an Intensive Case Manager to create an exit plan for their new home.

This is really good progress, as the folks accepted into Dignity Moves tend to be the toughest cases; those who’ve experienced chronic homelessness. The site does not allow drinking or drug use, visitors, weapons, or violent behavior. Pets and partners are welcome, and possessions are housed safely in one’s unit.

Jack said that often what people do when they first arrive is sleep. When you are living unsheltered, you are very at-risk of being attacked, having your things stolen or removed, or encountering enforcement. So you just really don’t sleep. Lack of sleep can cause poor decision-making, obviously, and also substance use. 

Dignity Moves functions as interim supportive housing. It’s not meant to be permanent, but a place to get stable and on your feet, so you can transition to permanent housing. It’s truly a dignified approach. Clients have privacy and safety, something homeless shelters cannot deliver.

Dignity Moves is also providing the missing ingredient we’ve long been looking for: the number of beds needed. On any given night in Santa Barbara County, 563 shelter beds are needed for people experiencing homelessness. We currently have 140. There are 123 in the pipeline, leaving a shortfall of 300. If we close that gap, it becomes possible to enforce illegal camping. 

Dignity Moves has a winning formula and is seeking to close that gap. They leverage publicly owned, under-used or unused land. They pull private donors in to fund the units. The county provides the services that help people transition out of homelessness. These services are key.

Dignity Moves will be constructing 94 units in Santa Maria, an additional 94 units in the South County, 25 family units down here, and another 87 sites on county-owned land. The County of Santa Barbara and Marion Medical Center are each contributing $2,000,000 to these projects, and the Santa Maria site will contain 30 recuperative beds for those leaving hospital care. 

It was a great presentation, and you can see it on our website under meeting minutes – all our meeting videos are posted there. If you’d like to support Dignity Moves to build this next set of transitional temporary housing, please go to their website at dignitymoves.org

Quick Newsflashes:

Montecito Fire was very busy this past weekend:

Female hiker suffered a rattlesnake bite on Romero Canyon Trail and was airlifted to Cottage.

The Romero Canyon trail is CLOSED still, from the rain damage earlier this year. Our friend Ashlee Mayfield at Montecito Trails Foundation said the closed trails have more overgrown brush because teams haven’t been able to get in to do maintenance. Thus, they have more hazards. If a trail is closed, please respect that. Don’t be the person that causes first responders to have to get you out because you decided your good time trumps that ‘trail closed’ sign. 

During this rescue fire fighters spotted a bear on an adjacent trail. We’ve had bear sighting reports on Ashley Rd, and Sycamore Canyon at East Valley. California Fish and Wildlife is on it. Could they be last year’s cubs that ran off when their mom was hit and killed on Ladera?  

Sharon Byrne is the Executive Director of the Montecito Association 


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