Bridgehouse Farm in Lompoc is ‘Growing Hope’ for shelter residents

Shelter residents at Lompoc’s Bridgehouse will soon have the opportunity to build new life skills while giving back to the community.

The Good Samaritan Shelter at Bridgehouse, which serves the homeless population in northern Santa Barbara County, recently broke ground on a 3.5-acre productive farm project expected to grow a variety of homegrown fruits and vegetables — in addition to kale and zucchini, which already is being harvested in small lots.

“This unique farm-to-table program achieves various community goals of: localizing our food system, providing food sustainability, and providing job training within our homeless shelter system,” a spokeswoman for Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann said.

“The Bridgehouse Farm Project will provide a supportive, meaningful work environment that encourages self-esteem, responsibility, and self-sufficiency to integrate those experiencing homelessness into the community in the security and beauty of a productive garden, and to put into practice the principles of economic and ecological sustainability.”

The grounds, named “Growing Hope,” is said to be a longtime dream of the Good Samaritan Shelter, a nonprofit social services agency that offers programs addressing homelessness and alcohol and substance abuse. The agency also operates Santa Maria’s emergency homeless shelter, meeting the needs of hundreds of homeless individuals and families on a daily basis.

With a growing need for resources as homelessness in some areas has risen in just the last year, the new program is projected to serve two purpose, chief among them feeding residents at both Lompoc and Santa Maria shelters, and helping residents that work the land to build skills through job-training in the ag industry.

In Santa Maria, preliminary results from this year’s Homeless Point-in-Time Count rose from 457 in 2022 to 472 this year, while in Lompoc the number fell from 290 in 2022 to 233 in 2023.

Lompoc City officials said that the project endeavors to “Grow Hope” by providing fresh produce to shelter residents and introducing “vital skills and knowledge to help them attain jobs within the agricultural field.”

Hartmann, members of the community and Lompoc City officials, including City Manager Dean Albro and Mayor Jenelle Osborne, were joined by representatives of Good Samaritan Shelter, Balay Ko Foundation, and Santa Barbara Impact Network, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony held Aug. 15 on location at the Bridgehouse, to celebrate the new chapter of self-sustainability.

Other local agencies involved in the farm project include the County of Santa Barbara General Services Department and County of Santa Barbara Environmental Health.

During the event, attendees were treated to zucchini bread, zucchini muffins, and kale salad made from produce harvested at the farm — a taste of what is to come.