In 1998, Pastor Richard Ramos was contacted by Chuck Slosser, then CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation (SBF) to discuss how the faith community could be engaged as a partner in community problem solving. Mr. Slosser had noticed the absence of religious leaders from SBF meetings to discuss, plan, and strategize community development opportunities. Pastor Ramos took serious interest organizing the faith community and with Mr. Slosser developed a proposal for The James Irvine Foundation to fund what is now known as the Interfaith Initiative of Santa Barbara County (IFISBC).
Affordable housing became the number one concern of clergy and congregations and was the rallying point that shaped IFISBC’s first foray in bringing together a diverse, interfaith group to address an issue. Efforts yielded results and in March 2000 voters passed Measure Y, which allows the City to develop 181 affordable rental units per year in perpetuity, a meaningful and positive step in the right direction. Later that year, IFISBC created a “Housing Action Coalition” (HAC) of environmentalists, developers, and business and non-profit leaders to address ongoing affordable housing issues on the South Coast. HAC remains active with the support of many community organizations, has developed an endorsement review team, and continues to be sought for endorsements by those developing affordable housing in our area.
From 2005 to 2012, IFISBC concentrated on interfaith cooperation and respect amongst diverse religious communities by hosting annual celebration events where people of different traditions share values-based stories and come to know each other over a meal. These themed community meals were attended by up to 200 people and fostered interfaith understanding, cooperation, and a better ability to solve the critical issues of our times.
In order to expand the scope of interfaith activism in Santa Barbara County, in 2013 IFISBC signed Memoranda of Understanding with two organizations: ECOFaith and HEAL, both reputable, unincorporated nonprofit associations that needed a strategic and operational hub. This consolidation has formed one strong organization to take a focused, hands-on approach to solving habitat, energy, and sheltering issues.