Employment, education, financial, emergency, and health and human services assistance are the main goals for Santa Barbara County’s new mobile farmworker resource center.
“We want to do case [management] and have that discussion to figure out the true needs [they] have. Is it a day care situation, lack of food, or lack of training?” program coordinator Cesar Guerrero told the Sun. “We want to know the true need to provide true assistance.”
The mobile resource center’s goal is to act as a one-stop shop for farmworkers to come and get help navigating public agencies and receive information on wage and hour laws, health and safety laws, and other legal rights. Farmworkers will work with either Guerrero or the center’s two farmworker specialists to get connected to the right community organization based on their needs, and Guerrero’s team will conduct follow-ups.
“We don’t want to just drop our clients at the door; we want to make sure we follow through and they get the services they need so they are able to be successful,” Guerrero said.
More than 250 people—including 30 community based organizations, 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, 4th District Supervisor Bob Nelson, and farmworkers—attended the mobile resource center’s kickoff event and resource fair on July 23.
The kickoff event followed December’s Board of Supervisors approval to accept an $833,000 state grant to create the center and commit $208,000 as a local funding match for a total of about $1.04 million over a 14-month period from February 2023 to May 2024.
Focusing on employment, educational, and financial needs as well as emergency support and health and human services was part of the state’s requirements in order for the county to receive the grant, but Guerrero said he wants to also connect with local growers and employers to see how the resource center “can be of service to them so their staff can be happy as well.”
“For this coming month we do have some community outreach events focusing on the resource fair side to gain attention, but in the meantime I plan on working with local growers to build that relationship, to understand their industry, and how we can provide a service for them and their employees,” he said. “It definitely goes with our growers and that’s an area we want to work on. They are just as important as our farmworkers.”
While the majority of the supervisors believed this grant would be beneficial to starting a program for farmworkers in the county, 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino had concerns about the program’s sustainability, since the grant only lasts one year.
“I totally support the idea that we need a better line of communication between our farmworkers and the decision-makers in this county,” Lavagnino told the Sun. “Providing them a place where they can have a mobile resource center makes a lot of sense to me, and it makes so much sense that I think we should have done it at a level that I think is more sustainable.”
He said that he worries about how the county is going to replace the $833,000 once the year ends and wants to discuss future funding opportunities as well as the program’s success during next year’s budget meetings.
“I’m hoping we can get into the nuts and bolts of how this is going to work, that we find what’s effective because you don’t really know until you start doing it,” Lavagnino said. “I’m just hoping over this next year that we figure out an effective way to do this that’s not going to cost $1 million every year because honestly that’s not sustainable.”
Guerrero said that funding is an ongoing conversation he is having with the program’s director to make sure they address those concerns.
“One thing I do know is there is a need in the community … and we need to make sure we go out there and get those referrals to those who need it the most,” he said.
The mobile resource center plans to travel throughout the county on Tuesdays through Sundays in the afternoon or early evening to meet farmworkers where they are at and allow them to use the center after work, Guerrero said.
Visit https://countyofsb.org/fwrc to see the mobile resource center’s schedule and for more information.