Innovative Solutions to Complex Problems
When it comes to the rampant issue of homelessness in California, there are no miracle cures or easy fixes. New Beginnings’ Executive Director Kristine Schwarz, a former entertainment industry executive turned psychotherapist and clinician, understands this reality very well. New Beginnings, which provides psychological counseling, veteran services, and housing assistance to homeless people in Santa Barbara County, applies the necessary grit, patience, and resourcefulness to tackle such a multifaceted problem.
“Finding housing for everyone is a singular undertaking, but keeping people housed is a very complex issue,” Schwarz says. “You have to look at homelessness as a systemic issue that has a lot of complexity and components that need to be addressed.”
Even as homelessness continues to spread statewide, New Beginnings has been innovative and effective in creating solutions that bring comfort to thousands of families. Safe Parking, an innovative program that provides safe overnight parking to people living in their vehicles, was established in 2004 with the key insight that half of unsheltered individuals and their families live in their cars. The program manages and monitors 154 spaces in 26 parking lots through Santa Barbara, Goleta, and other parts of the county, but its influence is nationwide, inspiring similar programs in dozens of other communities.
The Supportive Services for Veterans Families program, which has helped more than 1,500 military veterans find shelter, was just as perceptive. Many veterans struggle with mental health issues, substance abuse, and maintaining a stable income long after they have completed their service to their country.
That person-centered philosophy of providing services based on individual needs, preferences, and values has been a calling card for New Beginnings since it began more than 50 years ago. The organization is now trying to expand the Safe Parking to other parts of the Central Coast like Lompoc, Santa Maria, and Carpinteria. It recently increased its presence at Vandenberg Village with the understanding that it takes proximity to homeless populations to have a truly effective person-centered approach.
“Sometimes just having boots on the ground is the best way to help the vulnerable populations that we are working with,” says Development Director Michael Berton. “It’s really just a matter of showing up and meeting people where they are.”
Through January 31st, donors are invited to match the generous $25,000 matching gift from Sandy Schoolfield and Jon Kechejian for the relocation and expansion of our south county office towards our need to raise $250,000 for this effort.
We provide mental health counseling to low-income community members and end homelessness for individuals, families, and veterans throughout Santa Barbara County. Through four core programs, we serve approximately 2,000 people each year.
Executive Director: Kristine Schwarz
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My husband, Jon, and I believe that New Beginnings provides many vital services to the homeless and underserved mentally ill in our community through a host of successful and nationally recognized programs. They could do an even better and more efficient job if they could consolidate their outdated office space that is currently spread out in several locations into one location better designed to support their programs. Jon and I are glad to support this important initiative to help New Beginnings relocate into much needed new office space.”
In 2023, New Beginnings plans to centralize its main office and bring three locations under one roof in Santa Barbara. To do that, the nonprofit will need a commercial landlord willing to rent to an agency that works with veterans, the homeless, and people struggling with mental illness, and financial assistance from generous donors totaling $250,000.
Donations are also always needed to cover things government assistance won’t, like appliances, beds, medical assistive devices, renter’s application fees, renter’s insurance, and more. New Beginnings Executive Director Kristine Schwarz’s other major ask is an appeal to landlords and property managers to help serve the unhoused by making units available for them to rent and live in.
“We need landlords and property managers to work with us,” Schwarz says, noting that they have dozens of people housed all over the county who they provide supportive housing retention services for on a daily basis.
New Beginnings reaches out to provide services to members of our community who most need a hand. One of their innovative programs is Safe Parking. My late husband Gary encouraged New Beginnings to write a manual that outlined the details of the program with the intent of sharing it with other cities. That manual and Safe Parking has now gone far beyond Santa Barbara, and is helping hundreds of people. I am pleased to support New Beginnings and all its good works.
Warren B. Ritter II