It Takes a Village to Create a Village

Rona Barrett cuts ribbon to signal opening of Golden Inn & Village.

Rona Barrett’s vision became reality on Friday, October 28 when she officiated the ribbon cutting ceremonies for the Golden Inn and Village in Santa Ynez. Several hundred friends and supporters joined Ms. Barrett, Bob Havlicek, CEO of the Housing Authority of Santa Barbara and key political leaders to celebrate the completion of two developments designed to bring affordable housing to the Santa Ynez Valley. Residents of the Golden Inn and Village Senior, which is a 60 unit development for seniors, and the Golden Inn and Village Family, which is a 27 unit development for families, are expected to move in before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The development, 16 years in the making, is the brain child of Barrett who credits her father for the inspiration, “My blessed father told me as a child, Rona if you have a little extra – buy a piece of property,” she recounted. “Or better yet, give it to someone else.”

The road from idea to ribbon cutting was not an easy one, however. A team of local, state and national representatives had to work together to secure funding for the project and approval from city and county government. The funding was acquired through the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, Union Bank, the California Community Reinvestment Corporation, the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara and the Rona Barrett Foundation, as well as individual donors and foundations.

In addressing the crowd, Congresswoman Lois Capps lauded Barrett for her tenacity and vision, “Golden Inn and Village is a dream come true for our vulnerable seniors, she said. “It is testament to what we value and should be an example to communities everywhere.”

State Senator Hannah Beth Jackson echoed Capps in her praise for the efforts of all parties, but singled out Barrett by quipping, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” Jackson also noted that the project received no opposition, “The only place that [opposition] might happen in Santa Barbara County is the cemetery.” Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr concurred by reminiscing that on the day that the project came before the Board of Supervisors, no one offered opposition – it was “unheard of,” she said.

While affordable housing for families is important to Barrett and her partners, the vision for where low income seniors could live in comfort is really her defining passion. “It is a tragedy that our beloved seniors, who have given so much to our country and our community, are pushed into the background, just at the time they should be honored and respected,” she commented. “When people get older, they have a great fear of asking someone for help. We are here to help.”

Note: The number of vulnerable seniors is rapidly growing in Santa Barbara County. The Santa Barbara Foundation's Community Caregiving Initiative offers support to family caregivers, upon whom much of the burden for care of an elder falls. Please contact Phylene Wiggins, Senior Director of Community Investments for details about this important work at pwiggins@sbfoundation.org or 805-963-1873.

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