50 YEARS. 50 STORIES.
There have been many great moments in PSHH history…
1970 | Jeanette Duncan forms Peoples’ Self-Help Housing
In 1970, in San Luis Obispo, CA, a small group of leaders, including Jeanette Duncan, joined together in concern about the lack of affordable housing for low-income and special needs households. The group learned about a federally sponsored program available to nonprofit sponsors to finance the construction of owner built, low-income housing, which led to the founding of Peoples’ Self-Help Housing! Jeanette Duncan led the organization as Founder and President/CEO for over 40 years, seeing the organization through extensive evolution and growth.
1973 | First Self-Help Homes Completed
1973 marked a historic moment in PSHH’s namesake: the first self-help homes were built! This project was completed in Los Osos and was one of three developments in the ‘El Montecito’ project. Although our records do not show much about this group of owner-builder families, it is believed that one family is still living in their home today – 47 years later. We’d love to reconnect with this pioneer group so if you have information to share, please let us know!
1990 | Valentine Court has its Grand Opening
Valentine Court, a Santa Maria property for seniors and those living with disabilities, was opened in 1990. Sarah – and her canine companion Penny – are currently living at VC and Sarah has seen a vast improvement in quality of life and ability to navigate life with her disabilities. Sarah is deaf and suffers from extreme vertigo. Before coming to Valentine Court, she lived with friends, in her car and in a garage. Sarah’s disease precludes her from working and greatly limits her contact with the outside world. To communicate with friends and family, she uses a video phone service, which doesn’t function without consistent, reliable internet access. Since moving to Valentine Court, Sarah has the support, services, and internet signal to stay connected to her friends and family and live a vibrant life!
Photo by Jayson Melom, Santa Maria Sun
2002 | McCune Foundation Funds First Learning Center
Made possible by a visionary gift of $20,000 from the McCune Foundation, PSHH’s first learning center opened its doors at Casas de las Flores in Carpinteria in 2002.
The Education program’s first cohort of 80 students has gone on to achieve numerous educational and professional accomplishments, with many continuing to stay involved with their “home” learning center, paying it forward to new generations of learners. Today, PSHH’s 10 learning centers provide services to over 365 students across Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
The McCune Foundation over the years has helped sustain many of PSHH’s vital programs, funding educational and social services, resident empowerment, and community enrichment projects. PSHH extends its gratitude to the McCune Foundation for its continued support.
2015 | Casas de las Flores Grand Opening in Carpinteria
Carpinteria Camper Park started out as a fun camper park for vacationing families in the 1960s. However, by 2004, poor management of the property had led to trailers beyond repair, improper sewer connections, unhealthy living conditions, and high levels of criminal activity and violence. The City of Carpinteria asked Peoples’ Self-Help Housing for help.
After gathering feedback from the community, PSHH began the extensive process of rebuilding the property with 50 newer trailers, security fencing, and functioning utilities. Supportive services were set up onsite, with licensed social workers offering family counseling, crisis intervention, and community advocacy. Community-building events were organized and one of Peoples’ Self-Help Housing’s first learning centers was established, beginning as a simple outdoor classroom (pictured).
At last, in 2015, after a brand new construction, the dilapidated camper park was reborn as Casas de las Flores, showcasing 43 spacious apartments and approximately 3,500 square feet of community space including a classroom with a computer room. The original housing on wheels was replaced with supportive housing on permanent foundations.
2016 | PSHH Resident Leader receives Dorothy Richards Award
Elvia Salazar, Resident Leader at Los Adobes de Maria II in Santa Maria, has been a force of change as a community mobilizer and advocate for her fellow residents and neighbors. Elvia successfully helped protest an elementary school district change that would have forced children to attend a different campus over a mile away from their current school, which was only blocks from their neighborhood. She rallied parents to collect 6,000 petition signatures and share their grievances with the school board. Elvia inspired PSHH staff and her community so much, that in 2016 she traveled to Ohio to receive national recognition as an awardee of the Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership! This accolade is presented to community members who ‘have invested their energies and talents to bring about specific change that positively impacts their neighborhoods and communities’. In the years since, Elvia has continued to create positive changes and inspire others in her role as a Resident Leader!
2019 | First College Club Student to Complete a Masters Degree
Lizbeth Hernandez was a student in the Youth Education Enhancement Program from the 5th grade until she graduated from high school. She left Los Adobes de Maria in Santa Maria to attend Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles. During her time there, Lizbeth studied abroad in Spain, was a top three finalist in the Hispanic College Quiz, and became a strong advocate for minorities. She graduated with a B.S. in Social Work and eventually returned to her roots on the Central Coast working as a College Club Coordinator for Peoples’ Self-Help Housing!
In 2019, Lizbeth became the first student from PSHH’s College Club to complete graduate level education, as she received a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University!