SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The term "new beginnings" takes on special meaning for most people these days. It is a concept that's been around for more than five decades thanks to the New Beginnings non-profit in Santa Barbara.
The mental health center provides supportive services to unsheltered and low-income families and individuals, including homeless and low-income veterans, helping those in their time of need move forward in life.
A lack of food is a top concern during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"They don't have the ability to keep a few weeks worth of food," said Rhandi Lachonce. "Therefore they're not able to properly self-isolate because they have to go out and get food more than the average person."
Lachonce is Housing Retention Program Specialist with New Beginnings' Safe Parking Program.
Our crew caught up with Lachonce and her colleague, Raelin Shackley, as they dropped off groceries to more than a dozen veterans living at Johnson Court. Tuesdays and Fridays are big delivery days for those hit especially hard by the stay at home order.
"This is awesome!" said Janice, one of the residents. "With the little bit of income that I get it's kinda hard to make the food budget and this helps. A lot."
Janice's neighbor, Simon, called New Beginnings' food deliveries "a blessing."
"It's really humbling to be able to help create this community, Johnson Court, with all veterans," Shackley said.
On slower days, the staff delivers food to about 60 people; on Tuesdays and Fridays, deliveries nearly double. Lachonce said numbers are ticking up as the stay at home order goes on.
"Their availability to get food has diminished like, immensely," Lachone said. "So, we have created an Amazon wish-list in which community members can donate food through Amazon that gets sent to our office."
The office headquarters is located at 324 East Carrillo Street. This is where the non-profit's small staff sets up a one-stop-spot out front for the city's homeless community to pick up essential items, pet supplies and, use a portable hand washing station.
Boxed food items are stored inside. Eventually, they're bagged and distributed along with fresh fruits, vegetables and prepared protein meals from Ralphs, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.
Across town, Jordan Thurston, a case manager for New Beginnings' Safe Parking program, delivers bags of groceries to clients living in their cars, including a man named James.
"Got bananas, salads, and my favorite .... pastries," James said as he pulled out the items. "You guys always come through, thank you."
Thurston said they're also seeing a spike in needs among people who've lost their jobs during the stay at home order, particularly those who worked in retail.
"We have anywhere from 100 to 150 clients .... about 120 right now," Thurston told reporter Beth Farnsworth.
"How many lots?" Farnsworth asked.
"24 lots in Santa Barbara and Goleta," Thurston said.
Some of the clients receive groceries twice a week, others once a week.
James said he was furloughed from his car rental job at the Santa Barbara Airport.
"I had to apply for unemployment for the first time you know," James said. "62 years old and first time I've ever had to do that."
James in one of more than 16-million Americans who've applied for unemployment in the past few weeks.
If you would like to donate to New Beginnings, the Safe Parking Program or learn more about services, click the following link: https://sbnbcc.org/