SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- A new program operated by Good Samaritan Shelter is helping provide some of the most vulnerable community members living in Santa Barbara County find permanent housing.
Within the past year, Good Samaritan, with assistance from the federal government, has created its Emergency Housing Voucher Program, adding within the non-profit organization's vast network of support services.
"The Emergency Housing Voucher Program came from the Biden administration, and these vouchers were allocated by HUD (United States Department of Housing and Urban Development) across each county, and Santa Barbara County was able to choose what population the vouchers would serve, and so we were able to choose the most vulnerable of our population," said Rachel Mallory, Emergency Housing Voucher Program Director. "What that looks like is folks who have extended chronic homelessness, folks with a disabling condition, so that would look like a serious mental illness, or substance abuse, people with chronic health conditions."
Clients receive a subsidy from Good Samaritan to help pay for housing, and are responsible for 30% of their income, which is applied to their portion of rent.
"Our program is supportive services, so we are wrapping case management, mental health, substance abuse treatment," said Mallory. "We have a nurse on our staff around these folks who have received these vouchers to make sure they are able to sustain housing. "Outside of housing retention, are program is helping folks get registered at the local community college. We're able to help our folks get established in the community with other resources. We're making sure they get a primary care. We're helping them get mental health support. We're helping people get proper diagnoses, and on the proper medication, so our program is not just centered on housing retention, we're able to do many things. Our team is multi-disciplinary and it's really, really working well."
Over the past year, the program has assisted hundreds of Good Samaritan clients, including Keila Nogales of Santa Maria.
"It's just changed my life in a positive way," said Nogales. "I was a single mom. I was pregnant with my daughter when I reached out for help when I was directed to Good Samaritan, so they just came into my life in perfect timing."
Nogales spent years fighting chronic homelessness before connecting with Good Samaritan and enrolling in the voucher program.
"I just was hopeless," said Nogales. "It was really, really difficult. I didn't think I had anything to live for. I felt. I was a nobody. I felt like I was never going to get out of that situation. It was hard. It was really hard not having a home to go to, not having food. I didn't have anything when I was homeless."
With the help of the program, Nogales, along with her one-year-old daughter, now live in a clean, comfortable Santa Maria apartment complex.
"Just to be blessed with such a good home, a nice place, and a nice area, it means the world to me," said Nogales. It means everything to me. "I'm able to strive. I'm able to take care of my health issues. Just knowing that I have a roof over my head, and a place to come sleep, rest my head and my daughter, that's the biggest thing to me is that my daughter has a place to live and a place to come to, and I not having to be out in the streets and struggling. I'm able to bring her home at night and tuck her in. It's amazing. It's awesome!"
Good Samaritan clients like Nogales will also be assisted this year through the News Channel 12 Turkey Drive, receiving a turkey and other holiday meal items.
"It warms my heart," said Nogales. "For me to be able to cook a dinner and cook a turkey probably for the first time in a very long time, it just means the world to me. It means the world to my daughter. We're going to be able to be happy at home, in a warm place, and just being able to have dinner with family. I'm just very grateful and thankful to everyone that's donated and is able to make this possible."
On Tuesday, Nov. 15, the Turkey Drive will hold four donation sites where the public can donate a turkey, non-perishable food, or financial contributions.
Those collected in Santa Barbara County will directly benefit Good Samaritan clients, as well as other local non-profit organizations.
Santa Barbara County locations for the Turkey Drive will be the News Channel 12 Santa Maria office, as well as Grocery Outlet Bargain Market in Lompoc.
Donations collected in San Luis Obispo County, at California Fresh Market in Pismo Beach, Albertsons in Paso Robles and SLO Food Bank will directly assist SLO Food Bank Clients.
On-site donations will be accepted from 6 a.m. to 7 pm.
Financial donations can be made anytime by visiting the Turkey Drive website. Donors can choose to contribute to either Good Samaritan or SLO Food Bank.
For more information about the News Channel 12 Turkey Drive, or to donate, click here.