When Jonathan Martin was told that the Bridgehouse homeless shelter would be closing its doors, he said he felt the door slam shut on what little he had left.
“We are there because we have nowhere else to go,” said Martin, 23, who arrived at the shelter in October from San Bernardino County with his pregnant wife and their 3-year-old boy.
“That little bit of dignity we have is the homeless shelter, and you’re going to take that back. I just want the shelter back because that’s all we have.”
The doors to the Bridgehouse and Marks House will close today, indefinitely, according to Chris Moody, who manages both shelters.
Moody referred questions on the matter to Sue Ehrlich, executive director of Lompoc Housing Community Development Corp. (LHCDC), which operates the shelters. Calls to Ehrlich and LHCDC lawyer Stephen Taber were not returned Monday.
The troubled nonprofit, which is unloading its multifamily residential and commercial properties and plans to dissolve, announced to city officials Thursday that Marks House would be closed, according to Mayor John Linn.
Marks House is in the city; Bridgehouse is under control of the county.
Martin said Bridgehouse has housed 20 to 30 homeless people each night since October when his family arrived there from San Bernardino County. Only one woman is currently staying at Marks House and she will be transferred to a Good Samaritan shelter, according to Good Samaritan Executive Director Sylvia Bernard.
While Lompoc and Santa Barbara County try to resolve the issues regarding ownership and operation of the shelters, Bernard said, the homeless will have the option of staying at the Lompoc Warming Center, 816 North C St., until Sunday.
When the news was announced Friday about the closure of Bridgehouse, Martin said, he was one of 15 to 20 residents. The shelter, east of Lompoc, was reliable for a cup of noodle soup at night and roof overhead.
He said the homeless who use the services were left reeling for answers.
Martin also said he put out calls from Santa Barbara to Santa Maria on Saturday to find a place for his family to stay.
“We didn’t even get as much as an apology,” Martin said. “We were asking for answers, why was it closing. Anything is better than nothing — can we get a reason why it’s closing. Three days before it closed, we are told — that’s all we got.”
Linn said city staff worked on the situation over the weekend and there would be no disruption in housing to the homeless. He said he did not know what kind of housing would be provided to the homeless after Sunday, once the Warming Shelter closes, but he said a solution will be found.
He also said that the city received paperwork from LHCDC on Friday that will pass property rights for the Marks House into the city’s hands.
The city will now have full rights to choose who will be the interim and full-time operator of the shelters.
“The City Council and Board of Supervisors, city and county staff were all working very diligently Sunday and the holiday to resolve the issue and continue to provide services,” Linn said.
Late last year, the City Council appointed Good Samaritan as the interim operator of the Marks House, which could step in to care for both properties once property rights issues are resolved.
The ownership of both structures remains with LHCDC, so Good Samaritan personnel cannot legally enter the premises.
On Monday, Bernard said that she had already begun interviewing new employees who could step into the Marks House and Bridgehouse once issues related to the property are resolved.
“The sooner we can get in the better, but it’s the work of the city and county attorneys to get us into the door.”
But she had many questions about the condition of the facilities: What kind of supplies were on hand? The Warming Shelter also has no showers— where would the homeless bath? There also are issues related to funding.
Bernard said community members could help Good Samaritan by donating pillows, cots, blankets and money. Operating the Warming Shelter, which includes supplies and staffing, will cost between $3,000 to $5,000 a week, Bernard said.
Bernard also said that people can help by printing out a PDF flier on the Good Samaritan website concerning the decision and handing it out to the homeless. For more information, people can call Good Samaritan at 346-8185.
Martin said he would still like to know more about the situation.
While the developments left him rattled, he said he did not break the news to his son.
“He doesn’t know,” Martin said. “He doesn’t need to know. He’s 3 years old. We’re trying to keep him as blinded as possible to the situation.”