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'The kind of successes we'd like to see': Newsom advisor tours Santa Barbara County homeless services

Hafsa Kaka senior advisor homelessness
Posted at 6:51 PM, Aug 02, 2023

A senior advisor to Gov. Gavin Newsom visited south Santa Barbara County on Wednesday to get a better understanding of how the area is addressing homelessness.

Hafsa Kaka, who is a senior advisor on homelessness for the Office of California Governor Gavin Newsom, toured emergency shelters and homeless housing units in the area as part of her visit, including Hedges House of Hope in Goleta near the UCSB campus.

"I think what's really interesting in the visits that I'm looking at is: what are the impacts and what are the outcomes of the homeless funding that the state has provided?” Kaka said. “What I saw today was lives changed.”

Kaka said she met with two individuals that took “really good advantage” of one of the shelters. One of them has received a job and the other attained housing, she said.

“These are the kind of successes that we'd like to see," Kaka said.

The Hedges Houses of Hope shelter opened in 2021 and can house about 50 people. The shelter is named after Father Jon-Stephen Hedges, described as a long-time community servant, who died in February of 2021.

It’s currently the only shelter in Goleta, which has a homeless population of about 136, according to a county count from January.

The county point-in-time count of the number of homeless in Santa Barbara County totaled 1,887, which was a slight decrease from the year prior. Six-hundred and eighty-five were sheltered while 1,202 were unsheltered.

The City of Santa Barbara has the highest total of homeless among cities in the county with 787, a narrow majority of which are unsheltered.

"I think it's really connecting individuals to services, whether it's providing outreach services and trying to connect them to services or shelter, being able in the shelters to get them to housing, get them to mental health services, drug and alcohol treatment, help them with employment and housing opportunities,” Sylvia Barnard said, the executive director of Good Samaritan Shelter.

“I think that it's really a journey of stabilization that is really the most effective to not only get people out of homelessness into housing but to prevent them from falling back into homelessness," Barnard continued.

Kaka also toured other facilities and shelters, including the Buena Tierra permanent supportive housing facility which is currently in development and is expected to be completed this fall. It could house upwards of 59 people.

Kaka, who has been in the senior advisor role for about 4 months, according to her LinkedIn page, also toured the future site of La Posada interim housing in unincorporated Santa Barbara County and Dignity Moves Santa Barbara Street Village in Santa Barbara, which will feature 90 tiny homes.

Kaka was the director of homeless strategies and solutions for the San Diego mayor’s office prior to her time with the governor.

Funding from the state of California has supported the development of and the operations of each site.