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Seniors aided with affordable sanctuary at Gardens on Hope

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The Gardens on Hope offers 89 affordable housing units for eligible seniors 62 years and older.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. —As COVID-19 continues to reshape life throughout the country, one thing for certain is that the record-high increase in unemployment goes hand in hand with a shortage of affordable housing. 

This is especially difficult for senior residents facing homelessness in Santa Barbara. These are those who live on a reduced income and may rely on part-time work to make ends meet but are in danger of losing their jobs due to layoffs or closures. 

"Majority of our people have been out on the street that come from shelters,” Gardens on Hope executive director Charlene Fletcher said. “They've been sleeping in cars.”

Finding affordable housing which suits their specific needs put them in competition with low income families and individuals who’ve lost jobs and need help with their rent. 

In a city that is well aware of the urgent need to solve this growing problem, the Housing  Authority  of the City of Santa Barbara in collaboration with Parsons Group, Inc. has opened the The Gardens on Hope

"When you're a senior and you're couch surfing, you really do need to have stable housing,” HACSB Deputy executive director said Skip Szymanski. “That's what gardens on hope provides."

This service-enhanced, independent-living senior housing facility, offers 89 critically needed affordable housing units for eligible seniors 62 years and older. 

The new community opened in April and a limited number of apartments are still available.

"We've having to stagger the move in dates and times so that we can do each individual separately to be safe,” Fletcher said.

Once residents move into the community, they must quarantine for 14 days with meals delivered directly to their apartments before they're able to freely walk around.

"We ask them to very minimize mixing in the community,” Fletcher said. “The dining staff will go up to their apartments, they will serve all three meals during the day.”

After their quarantine is complete, residents can enjoy the new facility. 

The Gardens on Hope is situated on a 1.75-acre lot located at 251 S. Hope Avenue and modeled after the highly successful Garden Court, a 98-unit development by HACSB, located on De La Vina St. 

"They'd all been here for weeks and hadn't met their neighbors yet,” Fletcher said. “Being able to see other people and come out and stuff was a big deal."

All units will be subsidized with Project-Based Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, making rent affordable at 30% of residents’ income.

Gardens on Hope will enable a financially vulnerable population to avoid homelessness with amenities and services that include three delicious and nutritious meals a day, 24-hour reception, housekeeping, transportation and a creative curriculum of stimulating resident activities. 

The additional services give residents the opportunity to access resources including free cellphones, transportation and other programs. 

"Walking through, talking with the people, they're all so happy to have a house to have a home,” Szymanski said.

The facility décor is appointed with original artwork donated by area artists as it strives to reflect the Santa Barbara community. 

On-site service providers will include The Center for Successful Aging providing resident advocacy and adult educational, health and wellness classes, and Montecito Bank and Trust, offering educational classes focusing on financial literacy and avoiding senior scams. 

Each spacious studio apartment has an efficiency kitchen, a large bathroom, patios or balconies opening onto beautiful gardens and mountain views.   

Residents enjoy gracious community dining with home cooked meals and living spaces, a library and a convenient location near shopping and the YMCA. 

"They get to start living stress-free,” Fletcher concluded. “This is not the end of their life, it's the beginning of the next chapter of their life."

 According to local housing data, within the city proper alone: 

  • 1 in every 14 seniors in Santa Barbara lives in poverty.
  • Over 1,000 seniors are on our community’s affordable housing waiting lists; 70% of whom have annual incomes below $15,900.
  • The percentage of seniors on these waitlists has grown more quickly over the past 5 years than any other segment of the community’s waitlist population.
  • Service-enriched housing for low income, frail seniors benefits our entire community; it reduces demand on emergency service responders, the hospital and related social service agencies.
  • Providing low income, frail seniors with on-site meals, transportation and socialization is morally and fiscally responsible as it avoids early placement in institutions such as skilled nursing paid by Medicare.

To learn more about The Gardens on Hope, contact Charlene Fletcher at (805) 618-4999. Online applications now being accepted at

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County

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Blake DeVine

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