Ending the Crisis of Our Time
When your mission is to end homelessness in California, watching the number of unsheltered people continue to climb across the state can be daunting.
In Santa Barbara alone, nearly 2,000 people live without shelter, as evidenced by the number of encampments cropping up along railroad paths, roadsides, and waterfronts throughout the county. When she took over as CEO of PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) at the beginning of 2022, Jennifer Hark Dietz was conscious that to truly end homelessness, you also have to work to prevent it.
“At PATH, I feel we are capable of doing both,” Dietz says. “We can help an individual who is on the street find shelter and at the same time, we can focus on changing the system to prevent homelessness from happening at all.”
In 2021, PATH co-sponsored a state bill that would have provided funding for individuals who were incarcerated for minor offenses to get connected to a housing resource upon their release. The legislation was inspired by data from PATH’s advocacy arm. Their data showed that recidivism decreases significantly when a release from prison is linked to a housing resource and case manager. The bill didn’t pass, but PATH will not give up on pushing it again.
“I’m most proud of PATH using our data to really inform our advocacy,” Dietz says. “That is what will change the system.”
Alongside its tireless policy advocacy, PATH continues to do what it does best: help people find permanent homes and support them with medical and mental healthcare and employment training support to ensure they remain stable.
Across California, PATH serves more than 25,000 vulnerable individuals each year. In Santa Barbara, PATH serves half of the county’s homeless population, and they permanently housed 65 people in the last year. Attracting resources to Santa Barbara’s homelessness crisis is a top priority for the organization.
“In Santa Barbara, we recognize that the chronicity of the individuals we serve is very high, so the needs of our participants are also very high,” Dietz says.
PATH Santa Barbara Regional Director: Elizabeth (Liz) Adams
Our mission is to end homelessness for individuals, families, and communities. PATH envisions a world where every person has a home. Our values include creative collaborations, strategic leadership, empowerment for all, and passionate commitment.
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This is what enjoying your own home looks like! Now that Lexy has her very own apartment, she has been enjoying hobbies like crocheting and painting. “Looking back, I know I’m a strong woman after living on the riverbed and facing many challenges. Connecting with PATH and moving into this apartment has restored my sense of hope for my family and me, for that I am thankful.
Creating a PATH to Permanent Housing
The homeless crisis in Santa Barbara County is chronic and for 2024, PATH’s overall fundraising goal is $500,000 – $650,000. PATH Santa Barbara’s Outreach Program promises an even more proactive street-level mission. Being able to add a van would provide PATH’s outreach worker much-needed mobility in the field and adds another $150,000 to the PATH needs list.
“What we’re advocating for is a bit more flexibility so that we can meet people where they are,” says Jennifer Hark Dietz, PATH CEO.
Ron & Carole Fox
Denny & Bitsy Bacon
Don & Kelley Johnson
Mike & Fran Lewbel