Transition House History


Transition House provides innovative and proven solutions to the cycle of poverty-based family homelessness. Each year we help 150 families with children experiencing homelessness and 50 families that are at-risk for homelessness to acquire the tools necessary for self-sufficiency. With the support of our case managers, parents are empowered to find work that pays a living wage, save money, develop life skills (including sound decision-making), and secure permanent housing for their families. Transition House is the only homelessness organization in Santa Barbara that exclusively serves families with children. Approximately 70 percent of families experiencing homelessness who enter our emergency shelter program succeed in transitioning into permanent housing.

Transition House was founded by a consortium of twelve faith communities, along with the support of local service agencies, in 1984. For the first two years of its existence, families and individuals experiencing homelessness were housed in local church basements and fellowship halls—moving from one congregation to the next every 30 days. Volunteers from each congregation provided food and overnight supervision.

history_Quonset-Hut-600x450-1-copyIn 1986, Transition House found dedicated space in the Quonset hut located on the 200 block of E. Ortega Street. At that time, the shelter capacity was only 35. Staff members were hired and volunteers continued to work in the shelter and provide dinner service to guests. Those faith communities grew in number and were joined by groups of individuals who came on a rotating basis—there are now approximately 40 organizations responsible for food service in the shelter.

In 1992, Transition House purchased its current shelter location at 434 E. Ortega Street. The capacity of the shelter doubled to 70 and staff began to craft anti-poverty programs aimed at helping clients find employment, save money, and plan their move back to housing. Our children’s programs, including onsite licensed infant care and an afterschool program, were also created.

Not long after, Transition House was able to offer second stage transitional housing for families that need more time to achieve economic self-sufficiency by leasing an old firehouse owned by the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara. Up to six families at a time live at the “Firehouse” where they pay a portion of their income in rent and continue to work on their goals.

In the late 1990s, Transition House acquired a 13-unit affordable housing complex it named Casa Marianna and eventually built six more units on the property. In 1998, Transition House purchased its current office building including eight units of affordable housing at 425 E. Cota Street around the corner from the shelter.

In the last decade, Transition House has expanded its program offerings by developing a homelessness prevention program and an onsite evening education program aimed at developing employment skills and financial literacy. Onsite parenting classes are also offered.

In 2012, Transition House completed another eight-unit apartment complex next door to its office building called Mom’s. The complex also houses our licensed infant care center, which serves up to 24 infants from our program and the community. With the addition of Mom’s, Transition House now owns and operates 35 units of supportive housing.

Transition House’s history of community support continues with over 40 service or faith-based organizations and 900 volunteers donating their time and talents each year. Area merchants help by donating time, materials, and contributions to the agency’s efforts. Many businesses also offer meaningful employment with benefits to residents of Transition House. Santa Barbara’s compassion, generosity and commitment to its neighbors will continue to support Transition House’s efforts in years to come.