Life In The Vicinity of Casa Esperanza: Part II

This second letter provided by Sharon Byrne comes from a business owner a few doors away from Casa Esperanza. They fear stating their name in case of retaliation. The owners were once homeless themselves as newly married teens! What they see daily is mind-boggling. On July 3rd, they witnessed terrible incidents, called each of the five numbers given to them by Casa Esperanza, and hit an array of voice mails and ‘how did you get this number?’ responses. They never got a call back. They had already called 911.

“As a business owner located very close to Casa, I’m simply stunned to find out that their permit requires neighborhood watch and outreach. Very simply said, they have failed. To say that we spend our entire day dealing with their clients would not even begin to explain what a problem it is. Just yesterday I watched a man leave Casa and proceed to attack, kick and hit every parked car on the street. Those car owners will never know what happened and it simply isn’t possible for me to monitor this full time. You may be asking why I didn’t call the police. In fact I had called the police earlier that day when a woman beat her boyfriend until his head was bleeding. We have cut back our 911 calls to “life threatening” only. Some days are busier than others and we have to determine if starting a bonfire on our neighbor’s property after hours should be considered life threatening. I cannot and will not make this my full time job.

However by no choice of my own, it is now my part time responsibility. All day long while running a business in a struggling economy, I stand humiliated in front of my customers while parades of homeless and mentally I’ll people walk through my parking lot. I silently pray they won’t stop. But around half of them do. Before I am judged for being intolerant I want to point out that how I feel towards the homeless in neither here nor there. What is significant is that my customers should feel safe at my business and I should be able to maintain a professional atmosphere. Because regardless of the fact that I’m tolerant or not, I cannot force my customers to be tolerant and they may simply choose to go elsewhere. I do want to end by letting people know that our police department has been very helpful and on task. Mike McGrew in particular came out and cleaned up the area on a Saturday by asking people to move on. This blame lies solely on the staff of Casa Esperanza and their lack of concern for business owners. I am not the enemy. I did everything right. I give back to my community, I employ several families and I am raising a family myself. We specifically asked the shelter to have 24 hour roaming patrol and nothing changed. Imagine our surprise to find out that this was a condition of their permit all along. As for the prisoners now being brought into the area by Casa, I can only say this; we went 9 years without ever being robbed. Recently during daylight hours someone broke a window and ripped the cash register out of the counter. Not only did we lose more money than we can afford to, but we had to spend more upgrading our security system. We are a target and Casa Esperanza is supplying the ammunition.”

About Sharon Byrne

About Sharon Byrne Sharon Byrne found herself unwittingly thrust into municipal and political issues when she took a sabbatical from her corporate career, and moved to West Downtown in late 2008, a neighborhood in serious decay. She helped engineer a major turnaround there working with engaged neighborhood women. She served on the Franklin Neighborhood Center Advisory Committee, and the Neighborhood Advisory Council. She is the executive director for the Milpas Community Association, and currently serves on the Advisory Boards for the Salvation Army Hospitality House and Santa Barbara County Alcohol and Drug Problems. She is a former Deputy Director of Common Cause in California, and has worked on several ballot initiatives locally and at the state level. Her education in engineering and psychology gives her an unusual mix of skills for working on quality-of-life, public safety, and public policy issues.

16 Responses to Life In The Vicinity of Casa Esperanza: Part II

  1. I♥SB July 12, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    Good for the area residents and business owners for coming forward telling these stories. Unfortunately, our city government is not going to do anything unless their is a large community outcry. I don’t live or work in that area, but as a SB resident, I support the neighborhood’s concerns.

  2. rac July 12, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    I fully support any business owner or responsible resident in the Milpas area. I did a SB police ride along in the Casa zone. Before that, I thought the main problem in SB was the gang threat. Not now. The homeless situation is out of control. It is a highly organized “system” and many of these “clients” are pros at working that system as well as the scam being run by the NP administrators.

    Please continue to expose this shakedown that is going on at taxpayers’ expense and safety. I suggest doublters to go on a police ride along in the evening/night.

  3. Vox Hustings July 12, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    Police want to do something too to help local residents and businesses, but certain segments of our community with their alleged (but fast fading) political influence keep kicking the police in the teeth. Voters can regain control of this deteriorating situation – stop voting for people who make this problem worse.

    • Help police! July 12, 2012 at 9:17 am #

      If you guys could just speak, even off-duty, about the out-of-state ids the transients carry, how EVERYONE you pick up has a Casa id (so they were brought here by the shelter and then dumped into the area), the assaults, the fact you can no longer enforce public drinking, inebriation or urination because it’s no longer considered publicly shocking…if you could get that city-imposed choke chain off you and tell the public how it really is, that would help. The public’s only other way to find out is to do ride-alongs.

  4. anon. July 12, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    I searched the Casa Esperanza site for the names of the Board members; it is the Board that hires the CE staff and sets the policies. The names are not listed but they are listed on the most recent issues of “Strides”, the CE newsletter, Spring 2010, linked here: http://casa-esperanza.org/cm/What%20We%20Do.html: Esperanza Board of Directors Ron Fox, President; Sue Adams, Barbara Allen, Rev. Mark Asman, Dennis Baker, MD, Denny Bacon, John Dixon, Roger Durling, Eric Friedman, Roger E. Heroux, Lois Javonovic, MD, Chris Lambert, MD, Mark Manion, Nancy McCradie, Juliana Minsky, Robert Pearson, David Peri, Marilyn Rickard Schafer, Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, Richard Ring, Ken Williams, Xao Xiong.

    Although Mr. Foley stated in the inaugural, Summer 2009 issue, “You can expect to receive this newsletter periodically throughout the year”, there have been only two issues; it is possible the Board membership has changed. What does the Board meet; how often; as a Casa Esperanza is a 501 (c)(3),Non-Profit Organization
    Tax ID #77-0502754, shouldn’t the meetings be open to the public – or are they? – as well as having the 990′s available, as they are?

  5. anon. July 12, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    anon. July 12, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    I searched the Casa Esperanza site for the names of the Board members; it is the Board that hires the CE staff and sets the policies. The names are not listed but they are listed on the most recent issues of “Strides”, the CE newsletter, Spring 2010, linked here: http://casa-esperanza.org/cm/What%20We%20Do.html.

    Although Mr. Foley stated in the inaugural, Summer 2009 issue, “You can expect to receive this newsletter periodically throughout the year”, there have been only two issues; it is possible the Board membership has changed. What does the Board meet; how often; as a Casa Esperanza is a 501 (c)(3),Non-Profit Organization
    Tax ID #77-0502754, shouldn’t the meetings be open to the public – or are they? – as well as having the 990′s available, as they are?

    • Anonymous July 12, 2012 at 9:48 am #

      Sadly, virtually the only way to shine a light on Santa Barbara is to go outside of Santa Barbara. Anyone can register with Guidestar (http://www.guidestar.org) and readily find Casa Esperanza’s last three 990s filed with the IRS, as well as the names of the 20 Board Members and even offer comments in the Personal Review section. Interesting to note that as of the last filing Casa’s Total Revenue was $2,750,853 with Total Expenses at $3,297,469. So they’re inflicting all this damage on the community and not even paying their own way. Also paying $1,541,562 in salaries and other compensation to 117 employees. (A real growth industry they’ve got going there). Subtract the salaries from revenue and you have just a couple hundred thousand left to run the program, whatever it is. And you gotta love that mission statement: “The purpose is to provide shelter, food and a myriad of social and medical services to the homeless population of Santa Barbara.” Sounds pretty permanent, with nothing about temporary or helping them get back on their feet, or any suggestion of moving on.

      • $2.7 million July 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

        Think what that could do in the hands of great youth organizations, schools, or talented educators for our kids. We prop up a drug-using, drunk ‘don’t feel like working’ 3-hots-and-a-cot invasive crowd, right near the beach, but we could instead be using that money to propel our kids into a brighter future.

        • Anonymous July 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

          Remember this when Helene and Bendy run for re-election. Thank goodness Grant is termed out.

  6. Cali4niaDJ July 12, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    I used to work on Milpas about 7 years ago and frequently walked up and down the streets on my breaks. I frequented many businesses and shopped at many stores. While there was a homeless presence then, it was never a problem. I had a PO box at the post office on Milpas and it was common to see the homeless posted out in front there. Over the past few years I have taken to completely avoiding the area. I wouldn’t walk up and down the streets now. I won’t frequent businesses there, I won’t go shopping there because you don’t just see the homeless on the sidewalk asking for handouts, you see and hear them shouting, fighting, urinating, and being extremely aggressive. You can’t just say no to them, they get angry with you. I can’t expose my small children to that, as much as giving my business to local people is important to me. It’s a real shame that our city has been taken over like this. I have true sympathy for any business owner that has to deal with these problems day in and day out, and I can only begin to imagine the helplessness they must feel. I don’t want to even walk through a parking lot, they have to park there and work there all day. I wish I had an answer, but for now, all I can offer is my sympathies.

  7. Artificial flowers July 12, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    Interesting to see Garden Court residents donated $10,000-$25,000 dollars to C.E. Not bad for a housing dedicated to very-low income residents. Taxpayers subsidize them in Garden Court and they in turn subsidize C.E.

  8. Business Owner July 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    I am the owner of the business mentioned and the letter writer. I cannot say enough how appreciative we are of Sharon Byrne. Sharon works tirelessly for this area and she is very focused on solutions. The bottom line here is this; we do not not have the time, resources or money to do Casa Esperanzas job. They however DO have the time, resources and money. So why the lack of compliance? What is the motivation for simply not doing what they agreed to do in the first place? Over the last several days, we have seen more Casa employees patrolling the area, which begs the question, where were they before we all stood up and said ENOUGH!? When speaking with Sharon today I directed her to several other business owners in the area who were literally spitting mad and didnt know where to turn. Imagine coming to work every day and navigating what seems like a video game. We exit the freeway and the long line of jay walkers with no where to go impede traffic on Milpas and Cacique Street right in front of the shelter. Shopping carts, bicycles, groups of people walking with open containers and various vagrants who are clearly under the influence and stumbling in front of moving vehicles. Once we arrive to work, we pay an employee to scan the entire property for bottles, feces, trash, adult diapers, needles and so forth. Meanwhile, this is a place where my child and grandchildren want to come visit and enjoy the family business. Throughout the day we call 911 to force people off of our property, to stop fights of mentally ill shopping cart pushers who dont care about what I have worked so hard for. This is not SBPDs job, it is not my job, it is not Sharons job. The job was assigned to Casa Esperanza during the permit process and they are being paid to do it. One neighbor told me a story of being so furious he left his business and chased someone an entire block to get a picture of their illegal activities. He finally gave up and asked himself, why is this my responsibility. This man has six children and many employees with families, certainly he should focus on his business and not the shelters clients. We have been asked repeatedly by the shelter how we know they are Casa clients. Heres is the answer, our eyes. Yes, we see them loitering in front of the shelter. We watch them walk to the shelter for their meals, medical care and counseling. They are your client Casa. And they are our constant headache. As stated at the beginning of this post, we too were once homeless. I have “walked in their shoes” I have compassion and an understanding for what it feels like to have nowhere to lay your head at night. As a thinking society we should celebrate success. My family made it, we survived! We worked very, very hard to get where we are. Is this the lesson here? Is this what I worked so hard for? We ask for peace and safety. We ask that Casa Esperanza do their job. We ask that we not waste one more minute on conversations, phone calls,complaints or letter writing. Casa Esperanza, please do your job.

    • follow up July 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

      was there a police report filed about the break in and cash register robbery?

      • Business Owner July 14, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

        Yes, a police report was filed and the SBPD has been helpful, however they aren’t equipped to handle an influx of homeless and vagrants that are flocking to this area for free services from Casa Esperanza. It should be a requirement that anyone using Casa, offer at least some form of proof that they have been in the area for a minimum of two years.

  9. Handouts keep lives in ruin July 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    Your handouts only continue these poor life style choices for another day. This cannot be repeated often enough.

    It is 100% inaccurate to say SB is “not doing enough” to help. There is no compassion letting these people live on the streets on your misguided handouts. it is those very people doing the handouts that are not ‘doing enough to help.”

  10. Libra July 15, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    Well folks, we have a standoff. Who is more annoying – transients or NIMBY’s? Have to pick on or the other and the loser gets a free pass to continue annoying people. That is how it works in this town.

    This town can’t accept both can be annoying and both need to be dealt with on their own terms. Nope, it has to be one or the other, just like ” Yeah, what about alcohol” always follows facts that dope is dope.

    Back to that old”framing issue” and the false dichotomy that usually is enough to bring the spineless down. Best defense is to deflect. Well, here try this. Vagrants are annoying. Period. get rid of them.