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Where People Go To Live

It was a typical Monday at Sarah House Santa Barbara, a home for end-of-life care, when two teenagers walked in to ask House Manager Paloma Espino if she remembered their grandfather. Espino, who has worked there since 2004 and has seen many residents come and go through the house, smiled and kindly asked them what year he lived at Sarah House. When they told her 2007, she got the photo album for that year and the resident’s entire story came back to her. She showed the two teenagers pictures of them with their grandfather and told them stories about how they used to come visit him and have ice cream. The teenagers were near tears and they were so grateful that their grandfather’s story would forever be remembered at Sarah House.

“I spent only fifteen minutes telling these two teenagers about their grandfather and I know that I changed the way they saw end-of-life care,” said Espino. “Each person that comes to Sarah House has a unique story and they come here to continue to live that story, not simply to die. If I can help other people understand that, then that is all that I can ask.”

Sarah House began as Heath House, a home for men and women dying from HIV/AIDS that was founded in 1989. In the 1990s, Heath House received a gift to buy a new home, which they called Sarah House. As the mortality rate for people with AIDS decreased, Sarah House expanded its services to offer end-of-life care for low-income and homeless men and women. Located on Modoc Road, Sarah House has eight bedrooms for residents from all different backgrounds to come together and enjoy the rest of their lives.

“Sarah House is really a community that brings people together to create a home,” said Espino. “The perfect example of this community is that all of us eat dinner together every day and it does not matter who came from what background. What matters are the fantastic conversations, the understanding of other’s circumstances, the belief in change and enjoying the company of the person that is right in front of you. Providing people with the opportunity to be themselves and feel appreciated in the last moments of their lives is one of the best gifts you can give someone.”

Another way that Sarah House staff and volunteers give to their residents is by understanding that death can be difficult and that each person deals with it differently. For some residents, this means going to the beach every day. For other residents, this means eating pancakes at 3 a.m. No matter what the case, the Sarah House team is always there and ready to help, which is why the Santa Barbara Foundation is proud to support them this year with a grant from our Core Support for Basic Needs grant program.

“The Santa Barbara Foundation provided us with a capital grant that made it possible for us to purchase the Heath House back in 1990,” said Espino. “Now, with the support from this most recent grant, we will be able to continue to offer those small gifts to our residents, such as a YMCA membership for swimming or tools for gardening, that make their lives that much fuller. We are so grateful to the foundation for supplying us with a gift that allows us to worry less about the budget and focus more on the residents that we serve.”

For more information at the Santa Barbara Foundation’s Core Support for Basic Needs grant program, please visit our website or contact Guille Gil-Reynoso, ggil-reynoso@sbfoundation.org.

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