Developing Community Solutions for the Benefit of All
The purpose of the Santa Barbara Eastside Society is to address, educate, coordinate, and implement community solutions that improve the quality of life on the Eastside and increase the well-being and health of our diverse community members.
by Eastside Society President Tino De Guevara
October 3, 2019
Salvation Army Forum with the Eastside Community
Homelessness is an issue affecting the public nationwide. Here in Santa Barbara, and particularly in the Eastside, we are faced with the issue of people living on the streets and in their cars. Being homeless is not always a permanent situation but a state of existence that can be resolved through collaboration between the community and public service.
The Santa Barbara Eastside Society (SBES) heard through the social media format, Nexdoor, that the Eastside community was concerned and upset over a proposed plan by the Salvation Army to construct a facility, which would permanently house 14 chronically homeless people in the South Alisos neighborhood. To the board’s surprise, approximately thirty people showed up at the SBES’ regular board meeting on September 16th. Subsequently, the board decided to act as facilitators (not advocates) for the public meeting between the Salvation Army and the community-at-large.
On Monday, September 23rd, Vice President Tony Navarro and I met with representatives of the Salvation Army to construct a meaningful and fair hearing between the community and Salvation Army. The plan was designed for the Salvation Army to present their project for the permanent residence at 15 S. Alisos Street, at the Franklin Neighborhood Center on Monday, September 30th. The SBES would act as facilitators, and the public would ask their questions.
On Monday, September 30th, approximately 120 people arrived at the Franklin Center for the public forum. As facilitators of the meeting, SBES was encouraged by the large turnout of residents interested in hearing the Salvation Army’s presentation. Our objective was to have as many people ask questions while keeping order in the meeting. To achieve this, cards were distributed to each person to write down their questions. The SBES collected the cards and presented them to the Salvation Army for reading and responding with answers as agreed upon in our planning meeting.
Unfortunately, some members from the audience became unruly very quickly and began shouting challenges and questions to the speakers to the point where they could not answer the questions. Despite my best efforts to quell the shouting and call for a calm and reasonable discussion, the audience became rude and disruptive, talking out of turn, shouting over the speakers, and accusing the Salvation Army of “cherry picking the questions”.
The meeting ended with Jason Dominguez, City Council representative for District 1, explaining that the process wasn’t over and that there were modifications that the Salvation Army had to address. The Salvation Army took all the cards and hopefully will respond to any unanswered questions.
The issue of homelessness is a national tragedy which needs addressing through collaboration, compassion and communal support. As a society we must look internally and ask ourselves: “What if it was my brother, father, mother, son or daughter in this situation. What would I do to help them?” After all, we are all in this together. Solutions are discovered through honest dialogue, not by discrediting and attacking those trying to help.
"The Santa Barbara Eastside Society is dedicated to the proposition that community comes first. We hope you become a Member and support 'Community First' by joining the Santa Barbara Eastside Society."
- Tino A. De Guevara, President, Santa Barbara Eastside Society