In a year shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic and local affordable housing challenges for low-income seniors, the Housing Authority City of Santa Barbara (HACSB) had something to celebrate with the residents of Gardens on Hope (GOH). On April 13, 2021 they joined together to mark the first-year anniversary of this residential complex designed for seniors located at251 South Hope Avenue in Uptown Santa Barbara. The celebration was hosted by HACSB, Garden Court, Inc. and The Parsons Group, agencies that collaborated in the conception and subsequent development of this housing development.
The GOH property was decorated for the occasion, which included a BBQ lunch prepared by the GOH staff. Three flavors of ice cream donated by Rori’s Creamery in Montecito was served for dessert. The residents presented thank-you cards, potted plants and bouquets of flowers to the GOH staff to acknowledge their hard work to provide them with a comfortable place to call home. The day was capped off with a guitar performance by a resident and a sing-along. The GOH residents and staff wish to thank Summer and Theresa Dolotta, from the National Charity League for their support in making the anniversary celebration a success.
According to Rob Fredericks, HACSB Executive Director and CEO, “We opened the doors to Gardens on Hope last year at the beginning of the statewide COVID lockdown. At that time, a grand opening celebration wasn’t appropriate given the circumstances and out of an abundance of caution and safety for our new senior residents, some with frail health. Despite the restrictions place on us, we were successful with moving residents into their new homes. It went flawlessly, thanks to our partners at The Parsons Group and the GOH team, led by Executive Director Charlene Fletcher. As a 5th generation Santa Barbaran with a keen interest in improving life for seniors who are part of the fabric of our community, Charlene and her staff work hard to ensure that their clients have peace and security so that they can enjoy their life. Since quarantine restrictions have lessened, we felt now was the time to celebrate our one-year anniversary and the success of this beautiful and much needed communal living facility.”
Ms. Fletcher stated that “The day was filled with laughter and appreciation, so deserved after an unprecedented year!” She shared some of the many challenges she and her team faced in getting the property up and running; arranging for contract work during shut-down, equipment issues and staffing the property while a “stay at home order” was in place. Thirty percent of the residents came from shelters and homelessness in the middle of the pandemic. Residents were quarantined for 14 days upon arrival and move-ins were separately scheduled, as all possessions had to be left at the front door. GOH staff set up the apartments and moved belongings in for residents. Staff also individually packaged and delivered meal items to residents 3 times per day. In addition, the team sanitized the facility multiple times per day and ensured that everyone complied with the mandatory mask mandate and safe distancing.
Despite the challenges of opening a property this size in the middle of a pandemic, Ms. Fletcher says she is thrilled by the achievements made by the GOH team, residents, HACSB and Parsons Group over the first year of the facility’s operation. “Our community is referred to by our residents as ‘their family.’ They constantly come by to express how much they appreciate this incredible opportunity and just how happy they are here at GOH. Some have expressed that they ‘probably would not be here today’ had it not been for moving into GOH. To be a part of such an amazing resource in our community, to be able to offer stable, affordable and safe housing for so many of our local seniors, is priceless.”
About Gardens on Hope
GOH is affordable, service-enhanced, independent-living housing composed of 89 studio units for eligible seniors 62 years and older. It is situated on a 1.75-acre lot and modeled after the highly successful Garden Court, a 98-unit development by HACSB, located on De La Vina St. All units are subsidized with Project-Based Housing Choice Vouchers, making rent affordable at 30% of residents’ income.
Gardens on Hope enables 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. 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 & 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.
About Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara
The Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara is a local public agency created for the purpose of providing safe, decent, and quality affordable housing and supportive services to eligible persons with limited incomes, through a variety of federal, state, local and private resources. Since 1969, the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara has developed and/or secured over 4,000 units of affordable rental housing for Santa Barbara through a variety of federal, state, local and private funding sources. Please visit the website at http://hacsb.org/.
About Parsons Group, Inc.
Parsons Group owns and manages Independent, Assisted Living, and Memory Care Communities for Seniors in California and Texas. Their mission is “We serve our elders. We offer unconditional love. We nurture personal growth. We celebrate life. We make a difference.” Please visit the website at parsonsgroupinc.com.