Santa Barbara City Council Member Emerging Leaders Cohort 9 Santa Barbara City Council member Oscar…
Chuck is a beam of light when you see him – always with a smile and sense of honest compassion. However, he proves that anyone can get stuck in the dark.
Chuck did everything you’re supposed to do when sinking into depression. According to him, he was doing all the “right stuff” – medication, therapy, etc. – but still had the feeling of not understanding the point in life. “I think something happens at middle age we can choose to either ignore or embrace,” he shares. “Courage to Lead saved my life, and I mean that pretty literally.”
Chuck’s depression was the result of a combination of genetics, life experience, and the struggle to “grow up and enter the adult world of responsibility and routine.” What helped lift him up was being part of the Courage to Lead (CTL) program, at the same time as moving back to his hometown of Santa Barbara and falling in love with his now wife, Charla.
“CTL really came at the right time in my life. It gave me motivation, hope, and tools that I can use to really look differently at myself and this kind of work,” he says.
PATH Santa Barbara works in an environment where the people being served are at their ultimate low – a stage of real brokenness, as Chuck describes it. It is a difficult surrounding to be in and a wicked issue to handle on a daily basis. Imagine trying to manage it. Chuck explains, “This is a place where you are working with folks who are in a real crisis – these people’s lives have been destroyed.”
Nonetheless, this is what keeps Chuck motivated. “The direct contact with people on the streets keeps me focused and grounded with my work,” he shares. “We are here to connect with them, work alongside them, and develop ways to improve things.”
Chuck is very familiar with the homeless issue in Santa Barbara, having focused on affordable housing in graduate school and worked with local philanthropists around homelessness since the 1980s. He began working for PATH Santa Barbara in 2015 when the statewide organization took over Casa Esperanza, looking to change the culture, approach, and programmatic focus of dealing with homelessness. “It really takes a village to solve any kind of social problem,” Chuck says.
“Whatever your work is, come to your work as a whole person, as someone who has embraced all the components of yourself – your personality, your negatives, demons, and good qualities – because then there is a level of truth to your work.”
When in the CTL program, Chuck was inspired by the ideas of Parker Palmer on how to use the experience of being “broken open” in order to be uplifted and bring a sense of who you are to your work. Chuck explains, “Whatever your work is, come to your work as a whole person, as someone who has embraced all the components of yourself – your personality, your negatives, demons, and good qualities – because then there is a level of truth to your work.”
Chuck has embraced the practices of self-care and positive role modeling, and leads with an open heart. “I learned to trust my instincts and listen to my inner-teacher about how to manage both my colleagues and our residents here,” he says. “CTL inspired in me to act from a place that is your truest and best self.” With that, Chuck has emerged from a deep moment of crisis to illuminating hope in saving the lives of others.
As director of programs of PATH Santa Barbara, he guides the way in providing effective programs for the homeless population of our county. In the last three years, approximately 300 people have been housed and 370 people have increased their income with the help of the organization. Chuck proves to be a courageous leader in our community as he triumphs over issues often too difficult to face.