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Often Overlooked South Coast Non-Profit Provides Critical Care For Those With Disabilities

Peter Ortiz with his son, Brian at Hillside, a non-profit facility which provides care for people with serious intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Peter Ortiz is doing something he usually does twice a day. He’s spending time with his son, Brian, who has developmental disabilities.

Brian is one of nearly 60 residents of Hillside, which is a unique residential care facility in Santa Barbara which provides supportive care for people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The non-profit residential facility was known for decades as Hillside House, but recently changed its name to Hillside. It’s been around for seven decades.  Its roots go back to a legendary Hollywood name.

Director George Cukor founded the organization in his Ojai home, setting it up as a way to help a relative with cerebral palsy. It moved to Santa Barbara in the 1950’s.

Hillside President/CEO Craig Olson says many people know the name, but most don’t know what it does for the community. Olson says it’s the only residential care facility of its type for 150 miles.

For Peter and Cindy Ortiz, Hillside has made a huge difference. For more than three decades, they had their now 37 year old son at home. With his disabilities, it wasn’t easy. With the couple getting older, they realized they needed help. They were worried about how he’d react to living in the dorm like facility, but were pleasantly surprised.

Gail Metzger is Hillside’s Director of Operations. She’s been here for nearly three decades. She says it was state of the art when it opened in 1955, but despite its scenic surroundings is outdated. Because of changes in state law moving away from group homes, it will need to be replaced with smaller residential units.

Hillside President/CEO Craig Olsen says they are reaching out to better connect residents with the community.

The non-profit is also working to being the community to Hillside this month. It’s hoisting its third annual “Shining Light on Abilities.” From now through December 31st, there’s an elaborate nighttime holiday decoration and light display outside of the Veronica Springs location. It’s free, and there’s even a sleigh set up for pictures.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.