Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

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Sharon Byrne, Oscar Gutierrez, John Palminteri and a host of others on the railroad tracks off Los Patos way near a homeless camp. (Photo by Blazer)
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By Blazer

A midday meeting on Thursday on the tracks just off the freeway in Montecito was the scene of a multi-agency effort to coordinate the cleanup of homeless encampments in the city and county.

Sharon Byrne of the Montecito Association, County Supervisor Das Williams, Santa Barbara City Councilpersons Oscar Gutierrez and Kristen Sneddon, Hillary Hauser from Heal the Ocean, and Andrew Velikanje of Earthcomb were in attendance along with Cal Trans representatives and Fire Officials from both Santa Barbara and Montecito.

The gathering was to announce multi-agency coordination for the removal of homeless encampments throughout Santa Barbara County.  Cal Trans, Citizen Groups, Santa Barbara City and County fire, police and sheriffs are now working together to combat what has become a whack a mole exercise for public agencies. If the City sends a crew out, the camps move to County property, then to Cal Trans property, and so on.  

It remains to be seen what results from this collaboration will do to remedy what has been deemed an intractable problem. The Loma Alta fire below TV Hill on May 20, 2021 provided a hard to ignore sign that added urgency to political leadership in solving the danger of homeless encampments throughout the county. Many feel this is the first step in ending the "not my jurisdiction" discussion when approaching the encampment issue.

The outstanding work of Andrew Velikanje with funding from Heal the Ocean and the Montecito Association in cleaning up camps across the county has been an unheralded but startlingly efficient project. Visit the Heal the Ocean site for more on the progress so far as well as interactive maps.


Map of local homeless camps by Heal the Ocean

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Rypert Johnson May 17, 2022 01:15 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Basicinfo805, thank you for the support on what seems to be an unpopular decision by a largely vocal minority in our community. Then again, with the do-good crowd, the truth and facts be damned and at the end of the day internet virtue signaling is what will solve the problem in their eyes.

Look at the mess where the 154 meets State Street. Horrendous. How is this even allowable? I will tell you. The do-gooders, they have insulated themselves with a political agenda or inclination hidden behind a false sense of compassion, so disasters such as what is littering that area are allowed to continue.
The interesting fact to this is the hypocrisy exhibited by the do-good crowd. Individuals like the person(s) making that mess, they are littering. Littering is an environmentally disastrous activity, but in the name of the false compassion, it is allowed to continue. By the way, the do-gooders, they claim to be environmentalists. I'm a little confused.
They will go after the tax paying, hard working person's ability to get plastic grocery bags because those are environmentally unsound, but individuals such as the one making the mess on State Street and the 154, a "protected species" in their eyes as a result of false constructs being spoon fed to them by supposed "experts" on the matter of "houselessness" and such.

One way to describe these individuals illegally making these messes around town and illegaly camping or setting up structures is a "privileged species" because they are given every excuse imaginable to continue on their path of destruction.
I have to say that it is a destruction intended toward us, as hard working tax paying people. Since we can fend for ourselves, we are NOT a privileged species and if ANY of us try to do the same, expect fines, citations and possible jail time.

The supposed "reason" why some of these individuals can't "fend for themselves" in many cases is attributed to drug addiction, supposedly a disease.
Now, with that said, drug addiction is a horrible thing, I wouldn't wish it on ANYONE, but it is a result of bad choices. The reason I say "bad choices" is because, just like tobacco, there is tons of data, information, actual real life examples of what drugs such as meth, heroin or fentanyl do. The facts ARE available.
Yet, some individuals opt to put those substances in their bodies. Again, damn the facts and truth, but in the end they then become a supposed victim. But that victimhood is of their own doing.
We ALL have that genetic predisposition to become addicted, but many of us choose to NOT partake in such destructive behavior. Where is OUR support system? I forgot, we're not privileged.
Yet, we ARE expected to take care of the privileged self-made victims by allowing them to carry on in their behavior which is not only destructive to themselves, but their family, friends, neighborhood and community.

The ironic part to all this is the do-gooders want us to accept these "houselessneighors" as "equals" and while that is cool in theory, it is hypocritical, as they also want us to give them a free pass on their behavior and this amounts to privilege, a privilege none of us here, do-gooder or not, have until we become victims of our own doings. See the problem?

So sure, some will call this hateful. So what? Do I care? No and that is because if you're speaking facts and truth, there is nothing to worry about.
By the way, the tide IS turning, more and more people in our community are starting to speak as I'm doing with the same tone.
People are tired of the do-gooder attempts to shout the voices of reason down and their threats of online social shaming. In time, you will see a turn toward reason. The do-gooders, they will stay the course, but they will be even less than they are now. Keep in mind, they are NOT the majority in society and communities, they are just adamantly loud and disruptive. They are far from progressive too, nowhere near that.

Again, thank you for exhibiting that reason I mention and I apologize in advance for the long responses, this is an issue that can't be discussed in a couple of sentences or paragraphs or with a meme, popular tactics of the do-gooder mentality.

Basicinfo805 May 16, 2022 05:24 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Rypert J called it right. Toss all the money you want to throw at this deal and it’ll just keep on evaporating until you get what he’s saying here.

It’s not easy to be the parent, but when adults start acting like children it’s time to handle it and they don’t get to do whatever they want anymore.

You know why?

It’s because for very dollar we spend on them it’s a dollar less we can’t spend on kids, our youth, our future, and their education from the start.

And that’s exactly why I think California's education system is absolutely in the tanks. We’re wasting massive, and I mean MASSIVE, tax dollars on the kinds of ideas and programs that some of the above Edhatter commenters would advocate.

Money doesn’t grow on trees, folks. Even here in CA. You’re fooling yourself if you think the solution is to give them a dollar at the stop sign, house them in a converted hotel, or build a bunch of mini-homes for them to live in.

Nobody’s going to round em up. But if you keep making it easier and easier to do what they do, it’ll keep getting worse.

pstarSR May 16, 2022 06:33 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

its odd, we have working "lower class" citizens that would LOVE a hand out to help them get a leg up and get better off. But you have to be homeless to get THIS help........

sounds like we are attacking this problem from the wrong side. I know quite a few small families that would be super happy to have a couple of weeks free rent subsidized for them.

And sadly those same families are one to two paychecks away from qualifying for THIS help. why dont we stop the homeless we can, BEFORE they become homeless?

bosco May 16, 2022 09:38 AM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

They should also tour LA, SF, SD downtown areas and see where we could be headed. Million Dollar condos surrounded by tent cities on the sidewalks. We are beyond the tipping point. The state of our cities is a Global embarrassment. I can offer no answers but something drastic needs to be done. This is a time to leave your politics at the door and make unpopular decisions.

Housebuilder May 16, 2022 09:26 AM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Wait for them to commit a crime. Trespassing, dedicating in public, possession of stolen milk crates. Anything.

THEN once they are CONVICTED send them to public housing in TEHACHAPI

The law says the homeless must be provided assistance, BUT THAT ASSISTANCE DOESNT HAVE TO BE AT THE BEACH

chico berkeley May 14, 2022 06:38 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Homeless care less about your feelings and good intentions.
I hear people advocate for keeping these people on the streets.
Great, put them in CUYAMA(for the 10th time)no Liquor stores to speak of and a long way to drugs, would solve alot of our homeless probs.

a-1652576588 May 14, 2022 06:03 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

There is no problem that cannot be made worse with government "help."
If you want more of something, subsidize it. If you want less, tax it. Works every time.

Blobzilla May 14, 2022 05:53 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

It's a disgrace how the money allocated to help with the issue is wasted. For example, the Rose Garden Inn was used to provide rooms for 63 people. A total of 12 were actually housed, the rest went back on on the streets. Cost? $2.3 million.

Sensibly Common May 14, 2022 12:05 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

If Santa Barbara had a reputation that encampments are routinely visited by drug sniffing dogs and drugs quickly taken away, I suspect our unhoused neighbors would find new digs.

a-1652555533 May 14, 2022 12:12 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

And how much more in taxes are you willing to pay for this 24/7 drug sniffing dog and handler team? Law enforcement is always crying poor yet buying tons of swat gear and armored vehicles so expect this number to be quite high.

pstarSR May 14, 2022 10:34 AM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

There are some interesting comments, and disgusting comments.

in the end, we have to do something. regardless of what you think that is, we need to atleast try. At this point it is "affecting all of us" and it is an issue for us all. But turning your head and saying "f them, they are drug addicts" isnt going to make them go away.

Rypert Johnson May 14, 2022 10:20 AM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Well, if I'm allowed to comment here, I will share some points of view that the supposed do-gooders will probably freak out about. With that said, let the words begin.
Let us start with the individuals "experiencing houselessness" -the convenient term- and the origins of their predicament.

Sorry folks, but the majority of these individuals did NOT lose their homes to covid, income inequity or racial inequality, as claimed by every excuse maker in the vicinity.
Their homes were lost to meth, heroin or fentanyl. When those products become the mainstay, paying rent or a mortgage falls WAY behind the priority list. Sorry, just laying out the facts. They then resort to living in cars, but the responsibility of paying insurance and registration falls under the same as rent or mortgage and they soon lose that too. Next thing you know... ENCAMPMENT!

Oh, and please, stop with the rising rents and house prices nonsense. These individuals once were housed in homes they lost, but the pricing was not the case in the vast majority of cases, refer back to the drugs reality mentioned above for the REAL reason the majority of homes were "lost" by the vast majority of the "houseless" individuals.

Mental illness, ah yes, the overused excuse for many of these individuals. Sure. Let us begin with a differentiation that NEEDS to be made. When you do enough meth, heroin or fentanyl the brain undergoes changes and these can be listed a BRAIN DAMAGE. Mental illness is something you DON'T create from external sources, brain damage is.
It is an absolute insult to toward the truly mentally ill to use mental illness as an excuse for the behavior and antics of these "houseless neighbors" because in all fact and reality, there are MANY people with mental illness who DON'T behave in the manner being excused by the do-good voices of unreason. This needs to stop.

Support base for these "houseless" individuals is either little to non-existent. Why? That is simple. These individuals, through their antics, such as ripping off family and friends, constant negative engagement with the law and disrespecting the homes of those who tried to help them have basically burned every bridge behind them.
The very people who once tried to help them have lost hope in these individuals and have stepped away from any future attempts to help them further. Can you blame them? I can't.

What have the powers that be done to deal with this issue of "houselessness" in recent times? The do-gooders say that not much has been done. Seriously? Here in Isla Vista alone the county and stakeholders spent $2 million of taxpayer money to redocument -real ID, Social Security, Medicare, etc.-, service -medical, dental and mental health services-, shelter and house and AMNESTY 95 to 98 percent of those who were camped out in People's Park.
So what about that 2 to 5 percent that were not helped? THEY REFUSED IT! They would rather go back to camping out to do their drugs than give that up.
I have to add, the county also shelled out $7 million for yet ANOTHER shelter here in Isla Vista by purchasing a sorority house on El Colegio, this facility, known as the Hedges House of Hope houses up to 50 or so people. So bottom line is PLEASE, stop saying enough has NOT been done. It has and the efforts continue, BUT the do-gooders seem to feel it is not enough. Stop, please... STOP!
Besides, there are many non-government organizations such as Food Not Bombs, Showers of Blessings and many others are providing aid and assistance to the "houseless neighbors" on a daily basis. So this do-gooder myth that not enough is being done simply needs to STOP.
What about those mentioned in this article such as Heal The Ocean, Earthcomb and others? I guess they don't count as doing good in the eyes of the do-gooders. What a shame.

The reality to this matter is the majority of these individuals are TERMINAL. Are the do-gooders aware of this basic fact? I don't think so.
You will NOT and CANNOT change these individuals and their ways. Those are hardwired into their brains and it is all they will ever know going forward.

I have mentioned before that what the county, or any of the powers that be need to do is appropriate a swath of land, somewhere away from areas they can harm and designate it as a "free camping zone" for the "houseless" to live in as they please.
Get rid of the "no drugs/no alcohol" designation because in all truth, with these individuals and their mindset, that is NEVER going to be a reality. It just isn't.

Empty out the police evidence lockers of the drugs these people crave and just give it to them. They're going to find and do those anyways, why make them steal and commit other crimes to get those?
On another positive note, it will put the drug dealers out of business, since their paying customers will no longer need to buy those wares, they will be government supplied and provided.

With this encampment in place, the do-gooders can get fully and actively involved. Food Not Bombs can provide vegan meals for the campers, Showers of Blessings can set up a permanent operation, Ecovista Community can establish a "food forest" for the sustainability of the campers, church groups can come out and donate time, food and money to this endeavor.

Of course, some have referred to this idea as a "Mad Max camp" in the past, but truthfully, many of our "houseless neighbors" are convinced they're wasteland denizens, so why not fulfill the fantasy?
Let them have what they want in a way that will keep them happy and safely tucked away from the neighborhoods, towns and cities that they destroy and harass with their antics.

Us that are not "experiencing houselessness" are in our predicaments because we exhibited enough common sense to know to NOT do meth, heroin or fentanyl. We keep our jobs, pay or bills and rent/mortgage and basically have pride in ourselves and communities.
These basic things are what keep us from falling into a lifestyle that has become quite the norm and supported with a wide array of excuses that are absolutely ridiculous in most cases.

Another thing I have to add is that aside from paying bills and rent/mortgages, we also pay taxes and a lot of that money we are paying is going to serve/service the "houseless" population, so to these do-gooders saying we're not doing enough, well, you're wrong on all accounts.

The "houseless neighbors" don't pay taxes, some get state money -from the taxes we pay- and they don't pay rent. The fact to this matter is that the majority of these "houseless neighbors" were to receive a $2,000 voucher for housing for a month, you just KNOW that money will not be used for housing. It would become party time and housing would be the least on the priority list.

Sorry to be the bearer of the truth, but it's a truth that needs to be told. The do-gooders, their supposed truth is just that; supposed.
Accept the realities of what is labeled as "houseless neighbors" and by doing so, you will accept the truth and as we all know, the truth shall set you free.

So, go ahead with the hateful responses, it would be nothing new, but well, if keeping the status quo is the goal, then so be it, as it is usually the path of self-righteousness, a common do-gooder trait. Reality is so hard.

CoastWatch May 14, 2022 10:04 AM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Here's something to think about- $40 BILLION , That is 40,000,000,000.00 proposed by the Democrats to be going to Ukraine... Think about how much that could HELP U.S. Citizen's HERE AT HOME...!!! That would build a lot of transitional shelters and rehab facilities if "AMERICA FIRST" was implemented...

Basicinfo805 May 16, 2022 04:57 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Exactly. I’ll take my money and put it on the Ukrainian people instead of the types we have wasting resources here locally, I’ll tell you that and go ahead and vote me down!

Sensibly Common May 14, 2022 12:16 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

What would you do with $40 billion? It gets back to the problem that there is a lot of money currently being spent but unclear how effective it is.

a-1652507825 May 13, 2022 10:57 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

So much negativity, but look at the wins;
1. The county and city are finally collaborating!
2. They’re doing so at the city/ Montecito line, brought in by the Montecito Association. Who had a successfully homeless outreach project in Hands Across Montecito. Who knew Montecito could ever be good at homeless outreach?
2. The first person Hands Across Montecito got housed, Andrew, is hiring individuals experiencing homelessness to clear abandoned camps, Andrew is a raging success story, in his own right. How many Andrews are out there in the camps?
3. heal the ocean is filling a huge community need in clearing abandoned camps, with Earthcomb’s Andrew, operating solely off donations.
4. The county and city now have political will to solve this. Elected officials and chiefs of public agencies left their offices and went out to where the problem is happening, to collaborate.
5. Public / private partnerships are a huge part of the solution!

People: Things Are Happening. Governments are stepping up. People are stepping up.

So… are YOU going to engage? Because homelessness affects all of us.

edney May 13, 2022 08:04 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Scandanavian countries force people into rehab, and the courts here have decided that diversion programs can be "offered". ie: you can either go to rehab, or go to jail, your choice.
This forces people into rehab because if they choose rehab and f up, they get jail

letmego May 16, 2022 09:10 AM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

There are still homeless people in Scandanavia though. I asked a friend while visiting a few years ago, as I'd seen 1 or 2 on my early morning runs. She said "yes, our government provides a lot for people. They will, in fact, provide a flat. However, there are some people who don't want to live in their provided flat because it's not in their preferred location. This could be because they grew up elsewhere or their friends are in a different location. So they choose to sleep on the streets. (I was there in the summer, but I do wonder what they do in winter!)

edney May 14, 2022 12:36 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

No.
Socialism definition:
A political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

Golffoxtrotyankee May 13, 2022 07:42 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Okay please add my name to the list for the free house in one of the most expensive zip codes In The USA. I promise to take a true stake in the community if you give me a free house!! (SMH)

ParvoPup May 13, 2022 07:41 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Since we are fresh out of lions to take out the slow, weak and disabled from the herd, what is our next step?

How much money and resources do we devote to keeping the non-productive screw-ups alive in a society that can only continue with the contributions of the aware, the awake and the committed?

This reads like the "lifeboat challenge" we had in high school sociology class where the lifeboat is sinking because of too many people so we have to decide who gets tossed overboard.

Personally, my hard core practical side says cut them loose and let's move on because the odds of any meaningful number of these lifelong addicts, schizophrenics and outright psychotics ever becoming a contributing member to the herd is statistically zero.

But of course, as a counterpoint, someone will dredge up some feel-good story about the one person in a million who overcame the odds and became a social worker - but so effing what?

I get the whole "it's not their fault, addiction is a disease, they were born this way, Mom abused them" litany of excuses but at the end of the day, you either keep up, play the game, go along and contribute or your butt gets tossed off the lifeboat.

The world is going to become a lot meaner in the next few decades as the stresses of climate change, water wars, food shortages, disease and sheer hatred forces society into a true survival situation. Those who cannot or will not contribute will be cut loose. might as well get used to that idea now rather than later.

The meek, the sick and the weak will not inherit anything. They will become food for lions.

ParvoPup May 13, 2022 09:04 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Why?

Don't tell me you buy into that "we're so special" BS.

If humans were so special and fragile than why are there over 7 billion and counting of us?

The Matrix was right - we are are an over-reproducing virus that threatens the very survival of this planet.

The only thing special about us is that we are talking monkeys with opposable thumbs that refuse to accept the biological constraints that Nature imposes on all other lifeforms.

This is our species' Achilles Heel.

a-1652497389 May 13, 2022 08:03 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

What @Parvo??? Are you bummed out that homeless people aren't dying in throngs? You do realize they are humans right? It's our job as fellow humans to help, not wish death.

a-1652499517 May 13, 2022 08:38 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

6876, that sounds like a rental here in this city with near zero vacancy for rentals. The houseless have a lot of competition for those lower cost safe spaces... Most of the folks don't seem to be up for the competition. (No criticism, the competition for a safe space is huge.)

a-1652496876 May 13, 2022 07:54 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Actually, a lot of people do not want to be homeowners. It’s a big responsibility. Lots of upkeep. But most people do want a safe space where they can sleep and hang out, and keep their belongings secure.

Oak Man May 13, 2022 07:33 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Because these poor souls don’t want to be houseguests, they want to be home owners! If we give them homes they will have a true stake in the community. We don’t want them feeling like visitors

edney May 13, 2022 06:14 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Before anyone tries the "motels are the answer" nonsense
SF Chronicle: Article Title: "The Disastrous Results of S.F.'s Program to House Homeless in Hotels "
https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Bay-Briefing-The-disastrous-results-of-S-F-s-17126222.php

Transparent May 14, 2022 10:25 AM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Crazy that anyone could down-vote that. From a massively progressive newspaper in the most left-wing city in our country. Sometimes I think our 'wokest' advocates are right-wing plants intentionally making us reasonable progressives look terrible.

If you want progressive solutions, like I do, you need to look first at what our progressive cousins in Seattle, San Francsico, etc have tried. Instead of vilifying, we need to learn, correct, and move forward with solutions that aren't already proven ineffective... like most of what we are doing. There needs to be place in the discussion for results-based criticism. Positions perhaps in-between "All they need is more love and free things!" .... annnd... "Send ThEM to thE DeseRT!"

Ahlia May 13, 2022 06:05 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Your compassion is notable but what are YOU actually doing about it but complaining ? I for one am
VERY GRATEFUL to see many people out there coordinating and cleaning up the ongoing FIRE HAZARD that should be our "primary" concern going into fire season. These homeless campfires are causing all too regular fires all over our town & county. THANK YOU Heal The Ocean, Fire Officials and all of our elected representatives that are working to curb this danger to our community. :-)

edney May 13, 2022 06:04 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Community service is a big part of restorative justice and the courts have decided that certain rights can be suspended for a time.
Here is a homeless clip from Seattle. Make sure you watch until the AK47 comes out of the tent.
(Also although the AK47 was in plain view inside the tent, Seattle PD was unable to enter at first and had to wait to get a warrant

https://youtu.be/fKOgeCzNuyA

bicyclist May 13, 2022 05:00 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

They mentioned "Andrew", but didn't list his site:
https://earthcomb.org/
...so I did. dollars to donuts Andrew did more "Work" than any of the celebrities listed!

Chip of SB May 13, 2022 03:56 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

There are drug addicts and mentally ill individuals who are unable to care for themselves, suffering, and living in hazardous, squalid conditions. How do we respond? Do we take them into custody, evaluate them medically and psychologically, give them the care they need, and start them on treatment and rehabilitation programs? Of course not. Do we look around, take some photos and notes, and possibly clean up some of their mess out of concern for the creeks and waterways while leaving them to continue suffering as they careen towards an untimely and virtually certain death? Yep, that’s how we care for our fellow man in california.

edney May 16, 2022 04:00 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

OK
Here are the experts. State of Washington has a new law.

https://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2021-22/Pdf/Bills/House%20Passed%20Legislature/1773-S.PL.pdf?q=20220516155252

edney May 14, 2022 06:59 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Wrong.
I never said homelessness was a crime, and I know vagrancy and loitering are not crimes.
Under the influence of a controlled or illegal substance is. Public drunkeness is. Possession of narcotics, possession of stolen property, petty theft, battery, domestic violence, assault etc etc are.
Hany manyhomeless people commit crimes

RHS May 14, 2022 06:42 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

Edney, that is true but being homeless is not a crime and attempts to criminalize it have failed many times under judicial review. "Vagrancy" laws were once endemic but have been stopped by Constitutional review. "Loitering" laws were found just as defective.
So your analogy fails.

edney May 14, 2022 01:14 PM
Santa Barbara Officials Surveil Homeless Camps

an argument could be made that arrestees who are unhoused that are jailed for crimes are actually being given housing, nutrition and medical care. likewise for a diversion program that forces a choice between rehab or jail.

What is proposed is not "slave labor" and it is completely legal. From enlightened California: "Most California inmate programs inside of institutions receive a little over $0.25 to $1.25 per hour for labor". CA requires all inmates to perform at some job. Some states pay $0. This is entirely legal and common in all 50 states.
The best job in the CA system is firefighter which pays $2HR and gives 2 days a week off the sentence. Its also the most dangerous job.

The mentally ill but functioning and the addicts who are reasonably healthy who have broken the law could maintain firebreaks, clean parks, clean the beaches, power wash the parking structures and maybe even clear out old homeless camps... or a hundred other tasks.
Upon release they could be put into half way houses and in this job market should be able to get an entry level job quickly.

This would leave a much smaller remnant of deeply disturbed mentally ill and/or physically impaired individuals who would need additional assistance. I am not qualified to speak to how those people can be handled. My guess is that absent state intervention/coercion thoughout the rest of their life, they will be on the streets and in the woods

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