City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires title=
September 2019 Homelessness Encampment Clean-Up
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Source: City of Goleta

The City of Goleta is aware of the growing and understandable concern from the community surrounding two vegetation fires in the last two weeks that were started in homeless encampments along the Highway 101 corridor between Fairview Avenue and Los Carneros Road.  We understand this a serious public safety concern and we do not take lightly the risk to life and property posed by these encampment fires.  We are deeply grateful to our first responders for their quick response and work to knock these fires out quickly, but we recognize that these fires had the potential to cause great harm.

While we are not alone in dealing with homeless encampment fires and homelessness in general, it is admittedly one of the most challenging problems we face as a city.  We are constantly balancing how to help this vulnerable population with the need to protect community members from the hazards associated with homeless encampments.

COVID-19 has complicated the issue of what the City and allied agencies are safely able to do to address homeless encampments.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, unless individual housing is available, clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community which increases the potential for disease spread.  The City, along with regional partners, is following the guidelines put in place during this pandemic for the safety of our community. The City has partnered with the County of Santa Barbara to support people experiencing homelessness in Goleta who are at greater risk if infected with COVID-19 by placing some of them in individual rooms and providing others with access to beds at PATH in Santa Barbara. Yet, we recognize that these options aren’t enough to get Goleta’s homeless population off the streets.

Mayor Paula Perotte said, “Prior to COVID-19, the City has been active and successful with clearing debris from homeless encampments and has collaborated with allied agencies to conduct cleanup efforts along the Highway 101 Railway corridor. In September of 2019, a four day clean-up resulted in the removal of more than 12 roll-off dumpsters full of debris.”

It’s important to note that the City does not own or control the involved property, which is owned by Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) or Caltrans, depending on the location. However, because of the critical nature of this corridor, the City created the UPRR/Highway 101 Corridor Safety Task Force over a year ago to increase interagency communication and plan actionable steps to keep the area clean and safe. The group met last week and are coordinating a plan to thin out the weeds/shrubs/fuel along the Highway 101 corridor.

The City is in close contact with outreach workers who make contact with homeless individuals living in encampments on a weekly basis and work to connect them with services.  The City logs every complaint regarding a homeless encampment and subsequently sends an outreach worker to the location.  We are also working closely with law enforcement and our Sheriff’s Community Resource Deputy to increase activities in identifying and visiting homeless camps with our support services team to do everything we can to prevent future fires.

The City is in the final stages of drafting a comprehensive Homelessness Strategic Plan to holistically address the issue of homelessness in our community.  The plan will help guide and coordinate efforts to prevent and address homelessness in the City of Goleta.  The plan will be presented to the Homelessness Issues Standing Committee next week on July 22.

While the City respects and understands the need for the public health guidance discouraging homeless encampment clean-up efforts, it also recognizes the need to maintain the safety of homes and businesses near these encampment fires. Staff will continue to work diligently to prevent these fires in the future.

To report a homeless encampment, please contact Shanna Dawson in the Neighborhood Services and Public Safety Department at [email protected] or via our City Assist system https://tinyurl.com/GoletaSubscriptions by going to Submit a Request and then clicking on Homeless Encampment/Illegal Camping.

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MountainMan4865 Jul 19, 2020 12:00 AM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

I was talking with someone about this the other day. There is something that strikes me wrong about this scenario. I have no love lost for aggressive or career panhandlers, but I do understand people with mental health issues, people who made poor decisions in the lives, and those that are downright screwed by the hand they were given. They make do with what they can and the bar for acceptable societal behavior drops, but not in this arena of safety. Communities are established. Not necessarily in they way that most people think, but they become a community, and a community polices themselves by their own rules. There is no way, in my understanding, that careless fires around the only possessions these people have is acceptable. Anyway, the conversation turned to the speculation that someone was starting these fires around where the encampments are - up and down the tracks. I grew up in this town. This is a new-ish thing. "Warming" fires in 70 degree weather makes no sense.

SBLetsGetAlong Jul 16, 2020 07:13 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

1045
Why should the local residents constantly clean up after bad “guests”. The guests should be cleaning up after themselves & if not them then the government.
I know I don’t put up with guests that treat my home, neighborhood, this way. Why should we have to clean up after illegal encampments when the government doesn’t do anything.

SantaBarbaraObserver Jul 16, 2020 12:03 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

This oddly worded letter says nothing. Nada. Zip. And these people are paid to do this? Uggh. Clear the camps. Who cares where they go. Not our problem. Its their problem. Just like the bartender says at last call: You dont have to go home, you just cant stay here...

angryjoe Jul 16, 2020 08:10 AM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

4:37 has the right idea. Camps on state/federal property. Also, RR areas & Caltrans MUST be responsible for clearing brush and monitoring. I smell a class action suit. I’m considering one against the city of SB for enabling the bums who rule DT and are ruining mine and many other State street businesses. So tired of hearing local customers say they don’t want to come DT because of bums. The ghastly looks and comments from tourists aren’t pleasant either. But hey council, let’s just fund another $tudy and keep kicking the can down the road.

RHS Jul 15, 2020 06:33 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

Goleta has been totally absent in the movement to assist/solve the homeless issue. Like Carpinteria they have turned a blind eye to the issue and let the city of SB show some consciousness and care toward this population. If Goleta had ONE homeless shelter or any homeless housing they could perhaps claim to be victims but they have none and they are malefactors. The world needs us to share with the needy and disabled and mentally damaged and addicted rather than to push them into someone else's turf.

SBLetsGetAlong Jul 16, 2020 07:12 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

Why should the local residents constantly clean up after bad “guests”. The gusts should be clean8ng up after themselves & if not 5hem then the government.
I know I don’t put up with guests that treat my home, neighborhood, this way. Why should we have to clean up after illegal encampments when the government doesn’t do anything.

a-1594951045 Jul 16, 2020 06:57 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

Where I live we clean the highway once a month. We report any homeless encampments. SB City, Goleta, and Montecito need residents to get active. You can sign up for monthly Adopt a Highway. When you see a problem you report it to Caltrans and I assure you, they take care of it. Seems like no one cares in this community. We accept trash, homeless encampments, and the filthiest freeways in California. If you accept that, so be it. It does not have to be that way if the community will get involved. so get out on the highway and clean up the mess.

a-1594855591 Jul 15, 2020 04:26 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

Bogus excuse - if we clean out the RR camps they will take their disease into the wider community. Guess what, they already are - take a look at our parks down town. streets and local business doorways. No excuses and no more enabling. What is Solvang doing right and what are we doing so wrong. Put Union Pacific on the carpet, give them notice and demand they mitigate this clear public safety hazard. Where is our federal representative- Rep Carbajal? If he works so hard to protect us from oil pipe lines, why won't he protect us from federally regulated RR maintained fire hazards? He can easily get legislation passed prohibiting human habitation along RR right aways, demand construction of high barrier fences, regular inspections and camera surveillance of RR tracks in all urbanized areas . Look what we already demand for 24/7 oil pipeline surveillance. The same for RR track survelliance. Plus strict liability for all damages from fires started on RR property, due to RR hazard mitigation negligence. Just like the strict liability for fires the utility companies now face.

Chip of SB Jul 15, 2020 02:21 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

I think the fire danger and the homeless / drug addict camps are two separate and distinct issues that require separate and distinct solutions. The fire danger is caused by an excessive build up of vegetative fuels along the freeway, train tracks, and countless other public spaces like the park at lake Los Carneros. It doesn’t matter whether a drug addict ignites these fuels or a cigarette from a passing car, the resulting fire will burn just the same. The solution is clearing out the fuel, which means thinning and pruning trees, mowing grass, etc. I’m very glad to hear the safety task force is working on a plan to address this along the freeway and tracks. This will be a good start, but there are many other overgrown areas where excessive fuel loads are endangering the community. I hope this extreme fire hazard is addressed before the worst happens, because the worst will inevitably happen sooner or later if we don’t fix this. In order to keep our community safe from fire, the fuel must be removed. The growing population of homeless / drug addicts presents many of its own public safety hazards, but the solution to that problem should be the topic for another article.

Chip of SB Jul 17, 2020 09:36 AM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

SBletsgatalong, I blame the fires on a lack of maintenance. Allowing a build up of overgrown and dead vegetation is an extreme fire hazard. Whenever you see overgrown and dead vegetation, know that it is a lot like a powder keg or a pool of gasoline. All it takes is one spark to set it off, and it doesn’t really matter what causes the spark. The fuel (overgrown and dead vegetation) is the hazard, and blaming the cause of the spark that ignited a particular fire is dodging the issue of why the hazard was allowed to exist in the first place. I love plants and trees, and I am absolutely not advocating for removing them all and paving the planet. I am advocating for maintaining the trees. Thin them, remove low hanging branches, clear out all the dry weeds and dead wood. Maintenance will beautify the landscape and remove the fire danger. Doing nothing will inevitably cause a catastrophic fire and leave nothing but charred dirt, kind of like paving it all over. In order to save the trees, we must maintain them!

SBLetsGetAlong Jul 16, 2020 09:02 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

You’re blaming the man made fires on the corporates for not clearing more brush? The illegal homeless camps that thrive in dense vegetation?
So is your argument to clear the vegetation so the homeless don’t camp there or to clear the natural vegetation so the homeless have an open area to camp?

Lucky 777 Jul 15, 2020 02:15 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

Make Trona a "Sister City" and buy up all the vacant houses for $1,000 each and ship off all the bums you find in the bushes. Send off the squads of social workers and government hacks who are supported by this well-funded industry, and let them earn their salaries up there living in single-wides.

Byzantium Jul 18, 2020 10:19 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

The very successful 12 step programs start with just the opposite premise - addiction is a choice and the addict must own up to their own role in their addiction. No one gets unhooked when other make excuses for them. Making excuses is the key part of the addiction. Choose not to be an addict. Simple as that. You are lying if you think otherwise. Choose to be an addict, and that is exactly what you will be.

ParvoPup Jul 18, 2020 09:55 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

Not to be snarky or disrespectful but I have to ask for my own awareness - why does the fact they are addicted or alcoholic give them special privileges that I have to indulge?

I did not addict them to heroin or meth. I did not addict them to alcohol. I did not abuse, debase or dissuade them in any way.

Humans, unless fully enslaved in the truest sense of that word, will mostly have some say in the choices they make for themselves. Sometimes we make beneficial choices, sometimes - maybe not so much.

Whatever the outcome, in the alpha and the omega of life, it is our decision and our responsibility alone. To ask the rest of functional society to indulge you in your screw ups and bail you out on a daily basis is asking more of us than you are worth.

Sorry buddy, but you are off the lifeboat.

a-1594924390 Jul 16, 2020 11:33 AM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

1:21 pm I would be curious to know how it is that you know what these folks are up to. Have you lived with them? Have you worked to help them? Have you family or friends among them? Or do you simply "know" things based on your own appetites and biases?

SBLetsGetAlong Jul 15, 2020 12:27 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

In decades of research there has been no solution implemented to end homelessness. How much money has been spent on research this time? How much has been spent by Goleta, SB & the county over the last several decades?
The solution from the 1980s is “housing first”
The solution is using vacant land to build sanctioned tent cities with shelters that cost about$1,000 each and would provide each person about 144 square feet of personal living space. Then place mobile trailers on site for health workers and after Covid for common space for socializing, convenience store, mess hall, etc.
This would prevent encampments and dangerous fires.
All the research since the 80s has reinforced housing first before people can heal. Yet at no time has the govt taken the initiative to even try rent cities for SB locals who are down on their luck.
Instead they shuffle these poor people around, occasionally cleaning up Encampments that they are fully aware of forcing the homeless to be homeless again until they move back to the same camp.
As to liability if/when property is lost and possibility of lives not only will the government be liable but the land owners where the encampments are located as all parties are filly aware of the camps and are allowing them to occur.

a-1594947811 Jul 16, 2020 06:03 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

I saw 3 new encampments yesterday driving on the 101 north/south. I saw the encampment growing across the street from Earl Warren. Yes, some day there will be a fire and the Samarkand will be burned down. Or Hidden Valley. Or Hope Ranch. Or the lumber yard in Goleta. I saw two encampments near Garden and near Mission off ramps. So those neighborhood could burn down also.

a-1594856236 Jul 15, 2020 04:37 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

The solution can only be federal land, like the acres of unused military reservation land, all over this country. This can be converted back into to work camps for those who claim they have no housing. If these barracks and tent camps were good enough for our GI's they are good enough for anyone else. There shall be no unfunded mandate requiring local communities to provide housing for every single person, with no upper limits, just because they to camp on their doorstep. That is absurd on its face. Run that one up the court system. We already have a huge welfare system that includes foodm housing and social services We are already doing "enough" for those who want to work within the system. But we are not doing enough for those who refuse to become part of the system. We are not telling them their only housing option is a federal work camp. End of discussion. Done with coddling and letting them kick us in the teeth - these are the "will nots". Well guess, what. Those coddling days are over. No more gaming the system.

Chip of SB Jul 15, 2020 03:50 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

3p14159, I think you will be proven correct. It’s only a matter of time until one of these fires starts during a sundowner and burns to the ocean. It’s a shame that too few people recognize the danger and the powers that be lack the inclination to take the necessary steps to prevent it. I’m sure they will find someone or something to blame. Buildings can be rebuilt, I just hope nobody gets hurt when the big fire happens.

PitMix Jul 15, 2020 01:39 PM
City of Goleta Responds to Concerns About Recent Homeless Encampment Fires

What vacant land? Where is funding for shelters, food, medical care, showers, laundry facilities, rehab, mental illnesses, security? Once you develop this program, how do you stop people from coming here because it exists? People do not like spending lots of money on homeless prevention- they would rather spend it on cops and emergency room care because there is no other choice.

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