At the Mental Wellness Center, we understand that housing is important. It is one of those things that, if you have it, you rarely think about it. If you don’t, you’re almost always thinking about it. Housing in Santa Barbara can be challenging because there is not enough housing and what there is typically goes to those who have the means to afford it.
However, people do get housed every day, and there are programs such as Section 8 and tax credit that help those who have fewer means. Section 8 is governed by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered locally through housing authorities. The vouchers are either project-based or portable (i.e., personal), and typically allow a person to pay 30 percent of his or her income for rent. A tax credit program is predicated on where a person’s income falls in predetermined levels of “area median income” and if he or she meets other criteria (like a job in the downtown area) to pay reduced rent.
If you have housing, I urge you to care for it well. Follow the rules even when moving out - this will help you to get housing in the future. If you are waiting for housing, here are some tips:
· Never give up and never take having to wait for an opening as a personal reflection - it’s usually just a matter of timing and luck. You never know when things will change - only that, at some point, they will!
· Apply for as many different options as you find personally acceptable. For example, there are more opportunities outside of the downtown Santa Barbara area, and if you can use the bus or have a car, they might be worth considering.
· Work on the skills that you will need to live in any neighborhood.
o These include taking care of your health and managing your physical and mental symptoms as much as possible. For example, if anxiety challenges you, consider talking with your doctor about medication, finding a good therapist (possibly somebody who is versed in cognitive-behavioral therapy), and/or taking a symptom self-management course such as Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP).
o Learn to budget your finances so that you can pay for what is your housing-related responsibility, which typically includes rent, repairs caused by other than normal wear and tear, and cleaning. If financial management is a weakness, work with somebody to learn how to do it yourself or have somebody else become your payee and manage your money for you.
o Care for your belongings and maintain your personal space in a clean and safe manner. Perfection is not required, but understand that you have a responsibility to a standard for yourself, for others in the complex, and to the landlord. Also, if you obtain a Section 8 voucher, you will have to agree to periodic inspections.
o Practice being civil. You don’t have to be extra kind or go out of your way for others, but use your manners and try to recognize other people’s points of view.
The Mental Wellness Center has six (soon to be seven!) housing projects. Two of them, the Garden Street Apartments (mainly for single adults) and the Eleanor Apartments (more for families) are open to applications. However, be advised that the wait lists are long. The other housing projects - three adult residential facilities and a home with room rentals - can only be accessed through referrals by Santa Barbara County’s Department of Behavioral Wellness staff.
Written by Barbara Schreibke