A home, a roof over your head, a bed to sleep in is something most of us take for granted, however, that is certainly not the case for a lot of people. Even in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara is a popular tourist attraction all year around. It is as beautiful in the summer as it is in the winter. The city offers a mixture of delicious food with a variety in cuisines, local wine and artistic bars in Funk Zone, our city might be small but it offers everything you need. Downtown area is only a short walk from the beach, be it shopping or surfing you need walk no longer than a twenty in each direction.
In the past decade, the number of homeless people in Santa Barbara has increased. Did you know there is a total of 6,250 people experiencing homelessness in Santa Barbara county? Whenever walking up State Street or by the east beach it is very obvious that Santa Barbara has a homeless problem. Four weeks ago I decided to start volunteering for PATH Santa Barbara, earlier known as Casa Esperanza Homeless Center. They have approximately hundred beds available except from December 1st when they have two hundred beds available. They decided to double the bed space from December 1st mainly because that is when it get colder outside, especially during night time.
“Homelessness is really a housing problem. The simple fact is that we do not have enough permanent, affordable housing to support the people in our community who need it”
I have to admit that I felt a little uneasy my first days volunteering at PATH, I feel the society has created this negative stereotype of what it means to be homeless and view the homeless people as if they are not human beings. We see them as less worthy, crazy or even dangerous. Yes, many homeless people are struggling with mental illness and they need help, but ever since I became a volunteer for PATH I have had nothing but positive experiences with the residents who lives there.
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them. Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happierBe faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies” – Mother Teresa
A person who instantly inspired me to volunteer for PATH was my supervisor; JB Bowlin, Associate Director, developer and coordinating volunteers at PATH Santa Barbara, a place he has worked for the last seventeen years. A person that passionate about his work instantly made me curious about his story. Raised in a small farm community where everybody gave back, especially to the community. His father inspired him to always help others. In addition to being raised in a small farm community, JB also grew up in a small church society, he has always found ways to volunteer throughout his adult life next to his original career. JB beliefs are strong and something he said during my interview with him was, and I quote “People like yourself come in because they want to help and make a change. I believe that is what living on this planet is about. If we don’t help each other out, then what are we all doing?”
From being just another volunteer, he worked himself up to a paid position, he started a new career that lets him work with what he is passionate about: volunteer coordinator and making a change in our community.
What are the main reasons for homelessness?
It could be any reason, but the most known causes are mental illness and drug/alcohol addiction. It can happen to anyone despite how rich or poor you are. No one deserves to be homeless. Easier said than done, there should be more alternatives for drug/alcohol addicts to receive help.
Another core reason for homelessness is that people who end up living on the street do not have a safety system. Like most of us; we are supported by our families and friends. We help each other because we love each other, but what about those who are alone? They don’t have that safety network to take care of them, not only financially but also emotionally. Sometimes we need a clap on the back saying “You can do this”
PATH states on their website “Homelessness is really a housing problem. The simple fact is that we do not have enough permanent, affordable housing to support the people in our community who need it” PATH is here to help.
In addition to help people “making it home” they also provide critical supportive services such as; employment assistance, health care, counseling, substance abuse treatment, legal aid and more to get people back on their feet. PATH is located in Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego and Santa Barbara. If you are interested in volunteering the only thing you have to do is fill out this form or if you are interested in donating you can visit this page for more information about the donation program.