Supervisors to cut funding for PATH homeless shelter

By April Charlton

Noozhawk

Santa Barbara County will decrease the amount of funding it provides to the PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) organization for operation of an emergency shelter in Santa Barbara after it was revealed Nov. 7 that the nonprofit has changed its operating model.

“It’s disheartening to see a change when we weren’t notified,” said 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf. “I am glad we have options.”

PATH has historically operated 100 year-round shelter beds, as well as 100 additional “seasonal winter” shelter beds nightly from Dec. 1 through March 31, at its emergency shelter in Santa Barbara.

However, a recent change in the nonprofit’s operating model will now see those 100 “seasonal winter” beds being made available only when the overnight temperature drops to 40 degrees or lower and there is a greater than 50 percent chance of rain for more than two consecutive nights.

“This took the county by surprise,” Dinah Lockhart, county Community Services deputy director, told the supervisors. “It’s definitely a change in policy.”

Every year, four homeless shelters — PATH Santa Barbara Emergency Shelter, Bridgehouse Shelter in Lompoc, Santa Maria Emergency Shelter, and Family Shelter, also in Santa Maria — report bed-night data to the state that’s then used by county staff for funding purposes.

For this fiscal year, the supervisors allocated a $345,000 general fund contribution toward operation of the four shelters. Bed-night data was used as a ratio for distribution of the money between the various shelters.

PATH received $115,784 for shelter operations, with the remainder of the funding proportionally split between the two shelters in Santa Maria and the facility in Lompoc.

The supervisors had the option of reducing PATH’s 2017-18 contract amount based on the new number of estimated winter activation nights that will result from the program change, which are now expected to be between 30 and 50, or leaving the contract in place with funding at levels already allocated, knowing the reduced bed occupancy would be distributed to other shelters.

The board opted to revise the contract and reallocate PATH’s portion of the general fund contribution.

“Certainly we could transfer the money to Santa Maria, where the beds could be available,” said Wolf, who led the successful motion to decrease funding for PATH’s current contract with the county.

First District Supervisor Das Williams agreed, and said he believes the board should be helping other nonprofits willing to step up and provide much-needed beds for the region’s homeless population this winter.

He suggested organizations such as Transition House in Santa Barbara and Domestic Violence Solutions.

“We should put that money out there for anyone willing to take up the slack,” Williams said. “If we are allocating (the money) on a per-night, used basis, it makes sense to me.”

PATH provides emergency shelter to homeless people while also supporting them with extensive services such as case management, according to county staff.

The supervisors directed staff to return with a revised operating agreement between the county and the nonprofit, and also a plan for how to spend the additional funds that won’t be allocated to PATH since it won’t be operating the “seasonal winter” beds.

Noozhawk contributing writer April Charlton can be reached at news@noozhawk.com.

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