I recently experienced the joy of watching, Sarah, a long-time homeless woman find housing.  She has been staying at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission off and on since 2010.  A few weeks ago, I saw wonder on her face as she looked around her own apartment with a private bathroom, kitchenette and patio.

I played a role in this success through my work as the Homeless Guest Services Supervisor for the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.  Sarah and I became acquainted during her stay at the Mission, and I helped her through some rough spots. She also became friends with one of our volunteers, Cheryl Smith. Cheryl and I provided a sounding board and support system to our homeless friend so that she could remain stable in our overnight women’s dorm.

It takes more than one agency or individual to see someone into housing, so I am so grateful to be part of the Housing Placement Taskforce that emerged as a part of Common Ground Santa Barbara. We began a year ago by identifying the most vulnerable homeless men and women in Santa Barbara County, and are now working to house those who ranked from 1 to 100 on the survey.  The Housing Placement Taskforce includes Santa Barbara County and Santa Barbara City Housing Authorities, doctors, psychiatrists, jail personnel, shelter providers, lawyers,  public health nurses, and others who collaborate to locate and assess the homeless people on the list, and then to help them through the housing application process.  Sarah was number 51 on the Vulnerability Index and with my advocacy was assessed as being the most ready to go into housing at this particular complex.

After years of trying to help house other homeless men and women before the Common Ground effort, I am amazed at the speed at which we were able to assist Sarah.  There are still many people who will have to wait years to find housing in this county; but we are making progress in assisting those who are suffering most to find the housing and supportive services that will, perhaps, change their lives forever. I’m hopeful that Sarah is not the only one—there are currently three men at the Rescue Mission who are in line to be housed, one at the beginning of April.  I consider myself very blessed to be a part of this process.

Jill Wallerstedt
Homeless Guest Services Supervisor