Transition House Brings Commerce to Santa Barbara – Published in the Santa Barbara News Press in March of 2011

We are fortunate to live in a city that, despite its relative small size and population, supports so many non-profit organizations.  In fact, there are roughly 1,000 charities registered in the area, which, on a per-capita basis, is very impressive.  Normally we think of a charity as an organization that depends on the financial support of the community to cover its operating costs.  As a result, many may feel that having charities in their community is a drain on the financial resources of the area, especially during tough economic times.  However, many charities draw a significant amount of their funding from sources outside the community, employing local residents, and spending those funds in the local community.

Transition house enjoys tremendous support from the local community, and depends on the generous donations of many local individuals, businesses, and foundations for its annual operation budget, which is approaching $2 million.  As the president of the board, I can state that we simply could not provide the much-needed services to help homeless families with children (we only work with families that have children) regain their self-respect, dignity, and financial footing, without local support.  We also receive significant support each year from the city and county, as well as the state of California. 

Although Transition House is a non-profit, we contribute to the community, as do all charities, by employing local residents and purchasing goods and services within the community.  We have also undertaken significant construction projects, like our emergency shelter renovation, completed in November 2006.  Our shelter renovation was a $2.7 million project, including architecture, fundraising, furnishings, etc., with direct construction costs of $1.9 million.

Kathleen Baushke, who became our Executive Director in 2003 after serving as a longtime volunteer, board member, and our Assistant Director, has been searching for a way to finance the renovation of our Mom’s property.  I have been on the board for about 8 years, and throughout my tenure, Kathleen has been actively searching for a way to fund the Mom’s renovation. 
Mom’s Italian Village Restaurant was owned by the Signor and Giovanacci families and was open for 62 years, from 1933 through 1995.  A severe storm caused the closure of the restaurant in 1995, and Transition House bought the property at 421 East Cota Street along with the building next door at 425 East Cota, in 1999 with the help of the city of Santa Barbara and many others.

Prior to 2006, our shelter renovation project had to take top priority.  The old shelter offered only an open sleeping arrangement, which necessitated the segregation of men and women, which meant that fathers and mothers were separated, and children were only able to sleep with one parent.  The shelter renovation now provides individual rooms for families, maintaining the family unit, has a much more functional floor plan, improved access, and generally feels like a lot happier place. 
Once the shelter renovation was completed, Kathleen redoubled her efforts to find a way to push the Mom’s renovation forward.  Unfortunately, we could never seem to find the right combination of factors that would allow the project to work.  And then the economy and financial market imploded.  Since late 2008, most charities have had to completely rethink their options for capital projects, and some have been forced to close their doors.  This has, regrettably, been experienced by local charities as well.
Transition House also had to start with a clean sheet of paper to try and find a way to fund our Mom’s renovation.  Our primary goal is to provide additional affordable housing for our clients.  In addition to our emergency shelter, which is our first stage of our three-stage process to help homeless families get back on their feet, we have room for six families in our Firehouse property.  We also own 26 low-cost apartments where our families can live for up to 2 years and receive services including: career monitoring, case management and educational enhancement. At the end of the two years, the family reaches an income level that enables them to afford market-rate housing. The family returns to self-sufficiency, and contributes to the community in a positive and meaningful way.  The problem is that we still need more housing.  We have a pressing need at each stage of our three-stage process for additional space for families in need. 

Despite all of the economic setbacks and the demands of running the day-to-day operations of a large organization, Kathleen never wavered in her commitment to finding a way to get Mom’s done, (even when some of us on the board started to doubt if we would ever see the property rehabilitated).  Kathleen just kept pushing and never lost her faith in the viability of the project. 

Finally in 2010, she was able to put together a competent team of consultants and with the help of the City of Santa Barbara, Montecito Bank & Trust, the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, and many, many others, a funding package was structured that made economic sense, and that allows the agency to build 8 new housing units, renovate our existing 8 units next door, to add a 25 baby infant care facility, and to provide the tenants of Mom’s with same valuable services we provide for all of our families at Transition House.   
In addition to the obvious benefits to our client families and to the community by helping take families in need off of the street and provide them with hope, dignity, and a chance to re-enter the community on their own financial footing, the Mom’s project will bring approximately $4 million of direct spending into our community.  Our construction budget alone is about $3 million. 
We are acutely aware of the continuing support Santa Barbara provides for Transition House.  In short, we couldn’t do what we do for our families without that support.  Whenever possible, we want to help our community through spending and hiring locally.  To that end, we have contracted with Melchiori Construction Company as our general contractor.  Of the 26 subcontractors Melchiori will use, all but a few will likely come directly from the Santa Barbara area.  Montecito Bank & Trust will provide construction financing.  We are working with Allen & Kimbell for our legal work.  We will spend an additional $300,000 or so on the renovation, as well as on fixtures, furnishings, lighting, etc, as well as additional staff time to support the project (all of our staff members live locally).
With the current state of the economy, the cutbacks from the state, the budget deficits we have experienced, and the high unemployment throughout the county, large projects like our Mom’s renovation provide a much-needed cash injection into the local community.  Because we are such a small city, a $4 million project is significant and impactful. 
This project will take up to one year to complete.  Over the course of this time-period, the Mom’s project will support local jobs, not only through our direct spending on construction, but through supporting the jobs of the construction workers, our staff, the employees of all of the business from which we buy supplies, construction materials, etc., and also indirectly through all of the spending of the employees that the project directly supports, as they go about their daily lives.
There is a significant multiplier effect with projects such as Mom’s, as the dollars we spend are re-spent multiple times within the community.  This multiplier effect supports additional employment as local businesses increase their revenues and therefore can support additional employees. 
Other charities in town are also actively supporting Santa Barbara – some in small ways, simply by employing our local citizens, and others in somewhat larger ways, through capital projects such as Mom’s.  The relationship of charities with their host community is symbiotic – the community supports the charity and the charity, in turn, supports the community, through employing locals and spending the money they so generously receive from the community for their operations.  It is truly a wonderful experience to live is such a given, nurturing, supportive community.  Thank you Santa Barbara for allowing Transition House and so many other charities to help people and support so many important causes.

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