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Posted on May 23, 2017

Santa Maria: Homeless Shelter Receives Much-Needed Energy Savings Assistance

By Tracy Correa Lopez

As the largest facility of its kind in Santa Maria, Good Samaritan Shelter is used to lending a helping hand to those in need. But recently, the shelter was on the receiving end of assistance that could help it financially for years to come.

The shelter’s lighting — and lots of it — was recently switched out to more energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) lighting. It was no small feat as the installation work included more than four buildings (including a dining hall). In all, more than 400 fixtures were replaced and/or upgraded to LED lighting.

Staples Energy installers work in one of the shelters housing units to convert lighting to energy-saving LEDs.

The work was made possible through the Santa Barbara County Energy Watch Partnership, a program designed to promote and provide energy efficiency in government, business and residences. The program is funded by PG&E and Southern California gas, which both serve the area, and administered by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The energy efficiency upgrades at the shelter are expected to save about 127,230 kilowatt hours annually or, enough to power 11 average homes. And the anticipated financial savings to the shelter is expected to be significant — potentially shaving up to $20,000 off its roughly $40,000 annual electric costs.

It’s money the nonprofit shelter can definitely use.

“That savings will go right back into direct services,” said Jack Boysen, special projects director at Good Samaritan Shelter. Boysen is also a Santa Maria city councilmember.

Both the interior and exterior of the shelter’s apartments received new lighting.

“You know, it’s one of God’s gifts… especially during these times right now. We are very concerned with what is going to happen with shelter funding, especially at the federal level,” he said.

Boysen said to grasp how much work was done and why the savings is significant, one only need to understand the size of the Good Samaritan Shelter: The campus sits on two acres and includes an emergency shelter, a transitional shelter and a (permanent housing) 16-unit apartment building. It operates a detox center, meal program and provides services to about 500 men, women and children on any given day.

The upgrades were performed by Staples Energy and are nearly complete, with the exception of some exterior wall sconces. Some of the old fluorescent light fixtures at the shelter that were replaced were 35 years old.

Most businesses are obligated for a nominal share of costs through the Energy Watch Partnership, but everyone was so determined to make this project happen that the shelter received a grant from the Santa Maria Valley Chamber and an anonymous donor kicked in the final $1,500 the shelter would have been required to pay.

“We thought this would be a great opportunity to leverage that grant concept,” said David Cross, program manager for the Santa Barbara County Energy Watch Partnership. Cross works for the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Cross said the energy watch program typically focuses on upgrades for municipal buildings but the grant program was specifically put in place to help nonprofits that don’t have funding to cover share of costs for the upgrades.

He said all involved were determined to make this project happen because “this shelter does so much for the Santa Maria community.”

In the end, the shelter received about $31,000 in upgrades.

Staples did a phenomenal job said both Cross and Boysen adding that the workers were quick and professional considering the challenges of working around a busy shelter.

PG&E’s Lucas Patzek, senior program manager for government and community partnerships, said it is one of the more satisfying projects because this particular customer could really use all the financial help it can get.

“This project really represents what the Energy Watch Partnership is all about,” said Patzek.

“We will continue to work with Good Samaritan Shelter to find additional ways to save on energy and energy costs,” he added.

While the energy savings may take a while to kick in, the lighting upgrades are already making a visible difference, said Boysen.

“The lighting is so much more brighter… it brightens up the whole building. It affects the mood of our clients. It’s no longer a drab old building,” he said.

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