Casa Esperanza Serves Last Lunch in Day Center

Homeless community worried about future meals, place to hang out

Victoria Sanchez, KEYT - KCOY - KKFX Anchor/Reporter, victoriasanchez@keyt.com
POSTED: 06:32 PM PDT Sep 17, 2013    UPDATED: 06:40 PM PDT Sep 17, 2013 
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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

The last meal at the Casa Esperanza Day Center was served up Tuesday afternoon.

Starting Wednesday, the homeless shelter will be closed to anyone who doesn't live there.

The homeless community is worried and mad about the situation. Their free lunch and place to hang out during the day is no more. That means many of them will be back on the streets.

Marcos Olivarez finished his last meal at Casa Esperanza. Now, he and other homeless who stop by for lunch, won't be able to.

"We hate to see it go because a lot of people will have no place to go other than the beaches and the parks," he said.

Casa Esperanza's Executive Director Michael Foley said it's the lack of funds that is forcing the shelter to shut its doors to the homeless not living there.

"We've taken on a lot of debt trying to keep this program operating but we can't continue to do that," said Foley.

Some of the homeless are frustrated, wondering where their next meal will come from.

"What are we going to do? What am I going to do?" said a man who calls himself Johannesburg.

For the residents who live at Casa, they are worried about their friends on the street.

"I'm wondering where all these hungry people are going to be fed. I kind of feel for them, you know?" said Glen Merrifield.

"This is the worst possible thing. This is the opposite of what needs to be done about the problem," said Chris Taylor as he walked through the doors of Casa for his last meal there.

A concern is growing within the homeless community about the potential rise in panhandling and crime.

"These people are going to be more prone to drug abuse and alcoholism and those kinds of things, simple because they have no where to go to get a little rest, a little piece of mind," said Michael Stowell.

There is a glimmer of home that other agencies will step up to the plate to take over where Casa left off.

"I think something will come up. But yeah, it is sad to see this pass," said Cody Castro.

"We would love nothing more than the miracle of keeping our day center open," said Foley.

The Public Health Department will still work out of Casa Esperanza and anyone who needs to see a doctor will be able to, even if they aren't staying at the shelter.