Housing Is a Human Right
In 2015, Casa Esperanza joined forces with PATH, a statewide nonprofit that for 40 years has provided services to more than 150 California cities. What emerged from the union was PATH Santa Barbara – and just possibly, a lingering misunderstanding. “Folks in Santa Barbara grew familiar with Casa Esperanza,” says Tyler Renner, PATH’s senior director of communications. “People may have thought of Casa Esperanza as a day center or a soup kitchen – two terms I’d heard used. But PATH is completely different. We’re an interim housing site, we’re a provider of wraparound support services, we assist in housing navigation…”
Since 2015, PATH Santa Barbara has helped more than 2,300 people make it home and served over 500 people last year. Homelessness is both systemic – and as unique as each individual struggling to transcend it. This is what drives PATH’s model. “People fall into homelessness for so many different reasons,” Renner says. “PATH’s solutions are as varied as those individual situations.”
Santa Barbara County’s homeless figure hovers right around the 2,000 mark; a beige number that conveys nothing of the struggle that typifies daily life for the unhoused. “Even as we’ve continued to serve that number of people,” says PATH CEO Jennifer Hark Dietz, “we believe that more people are falling into homelessness every day. At PATH we’ve adopted a Housing First approach. Let’s get somebody indoors and then let’s continue those wraparound services.” The unhoused are truly in daily survival mode. “Our services come into play once somebody is literally homeless,” says Hark Dietz. “At that point we provide them services, interim shelter, and we start working toward a housing goal.”
PATH’s new Regional Director, Liz Adams, sees the immense value in accruing and applying the far-ranging expertise culled from PATH’s work all throughout California. “We’re doing what needs to be done here in Santa Barbara, but we also have this support of the larger PATH community.” Adams knows whereof she speaks, having exited foster care to become homeless herself by the age of 26. Deep experiential wisdom drives PATH’s momentum
PATH Santa Barbara is bringing that knowledge home and pouring it into solutions right here in Santa Barbara County. Once PATH SB connects individuals to permanent housing, they then focus on stabilization through a vast array of voluntary supportive services. These vital services include employment training, intensive case management services, medical and mental healthcare, and their community food program where they partner with Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to receive and process food donations that nourish their residents with three daily meals.
PATH SB is building on their successes as funding permits. “We’ve added an Outreach worker recently. We want to make sure that individuals on the street know what services are available and how to get connected,” Hark Dietz explains. “Housing is a human right,” she says simply. ”It’s not something that you earn. And homelessness can happen to anyone.”
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.
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