Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless

Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless title=
Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless
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A homeless encampment near downtown Santa Barbara train station (Photo: John Palminteri)

Source: County of Santa Barbara

Results of the biennial Point in Time (PIT) Count of persons experiencing homelessness were released today. Conducted on January 24, 2019 by the Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County Continuum of Care (CoC), the Count is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and serves as a snapshot of homelessness in the county on a single night. The County and CoC provided oversight of the PIT Count, working closely with Northern Santa Barbara County United Way Home for Good, Applied Survey Research, Simtech Solutions and more than 500 volunteers.  

Countywide, 1,803 persons were counted with the largest number counted in the city of Santa Barbara. The count includes 1,133 persons experiencing unsheltered homelessness and 670 persons living in emergency shelters or transitional housing. In 2017, the official PIT count was 1,860. There was a notable shift between sheltered and unsheltered persons between 2017 and 2019.













Highlights from the data include:

• 42 percent of the unsheltered count (1,133) was persons living in their vehicles (479) 

• 115 households with 226 children under the age of 18 were literally homeless the night of the count (this does not include families doubled up, paying for a motel or at-risk of homelessness)

• 423 persons were experiencing chronic homelessness, an increase of 87 percent (226) from 2017

Home for Good recruited more than 500 volunteers to assist, including 449 people who showed up at 5 a.m. to canvas 89 census tracts across the county. A new methodology in alignment with national best practices relied on geographic coverage in place of staged events to more accurately reflect populations. The 2019 PIT Count will serve as a baseline for future data comparisons. Volunteers who were canvassing and surveying used a mobile application from Simtech to gather real-time data. Additionally, vehicle counts were conducted using guidance from Applied Survey Research with demographic information provided from the New Beginnings Safe Parking Program.

The chart below provides count data by city or area compared to the 2017 PIT homeless population estimates for combining both unsheltered and sheltered populations. The homeless population was distributed throughout the county: 1,074 (60%) persons in south county, 475 (26%) persons in north county and 254 (14%) in mid-county.

City /Area

2019 PIT Count 

2017 PIT Homeless Population Estimates






not reported



not reported






not reported

Isla Vista






Santa Barbara



Santa Maria





not reported

Buellton/Solvang/Santa Ynez Valley



New Cuyama


not reported




The survey included questions regarding last permanent residence and how long a person had lived in the county. The results below support data collected in the Homeless Management Information System that the population experiencing homelessness is largely part of the community and not those who have relocated from other regions.

  • 76 percent became homeless while living in Santa Barbara County
  • 60 percent have lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 10 years or the majority of their lives

A comprehensive report of the PIT data and Housing Inventory for homeless persons will be released later in the year.

The Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County Continuum of Care promotes community-wide planning and strategic use of resources and programs targeted to people experiencing homelessness. The County of Santa Barbara serves as the lead agency for the CoC. For more information, go to

The County is in the process of a regional homeless planning effort to address homelessness. To review the Phase 1 Community Plan to Address Homelessness, go to For information about the County’s Housing and Community Development Division, go to

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a-1582675827 Mar 22, 2019 08:20 AM
Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless

Exactly. Do a police ride along. They aren’t “homeless vets”- any of them who say that are total liars guilty of stolen valor. They’re drug addicts who’ll say anything for a fix.

a-1582675827 Mar 20, 2019 05:55 PM
Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless

More __visible__ police patrols. Safety volunteers, more walking in areas where there are campers, and volunteers report them. County Health, get involved. It simply takes a will to make safety a priority. Being passive, for all of us, has not worked. GET INVOLVED yourself, and call police when you see something that is lawless.

Factotum Mar 22, 2019 02:28 PM
Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless

Unchecked vagrancy is affecting property values, which is the last best source of revenues for city operations. Tourism is neutral, retail sales taxes are soft. the only strong revenue stream is the automatic 2% increase on property taxes that trickles down to the city to pay for its staff, perks and pensions. At some point city powers that be will understand there is a direct connection between their own salary and benefit packages, and the degradation of city property values. But right now the city powers are riding the automatic 2% property tax increase all residents are required to pay. And at some point property owners will make the connection and stop electing those who only enable more of the same.

Luvaduck Mar 22, 2019 12:19 PM
Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless

Just not areas like Montecito, Hope Ranch, the Rivera and other upscale/gated community areas. Maybe middle-class residential areas are just easier to disappear into or the panhandling is closer and people are less savvy about handing out money?

ZeroHawk Mar 21, 2019 01:39 PM
Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless

oh really? i'm talking about real crime. not someone who is lower on the capitalist pole than you...."nicest areas of town"? you must have just moved here then. the train station, 7-11 at Castillo, the fig tree, and lower state street have always been a crap hole in santa barbara...since the early 1980s

bas4241 Mar 21, 2019 09:12 AM
Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless

I can't think of any "bigger" things the police have to do. This situation is ruining what should be some of the nicest areas in town, and if left unchecked, will hurt tourism and business in addition to degrading the general quality of life in the area.

Bird Mar 22, 2019 11:22 AM
Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless

Do not those who do not get the work not cross the street in the evening for a bed? I don't know, it's a question. There are many more there looking for work then I, at least, have seen cars/trucks stopping for workers.

a-1582675827 Mar 21, 2019 11:24 AM
Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless

The two worlds collide on Yanonali every day. On one side of the street you have the day laborers, on the other side of the street you have the homeless in line at the shelter. You know the difference? One group is looking for work, the other a hand out. Two very different situations.

Mas Gaviota Mar 20, 2019 06:11 PM
Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless

@coastwatch There are not 8 million "illegals" in California it is more like 2.2 million. When you exaggerate, it makes your argument weaker.

AdamVant Mar 20, 2019 05:29 PM
Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless

We normal people should not tolerate bums and hobos and their tents, drug needles, feces, urine, and stolen bicycles. We pay taxes and buy homes and support our local businesses. We run the bums and hobos; they don't run us. We should give the bums and hobos a sharp poke in the ribs and tell them to move along. Where they go I don't care as long as they go out of Santa Barbara. Enough already.

a-1582675827 Mar 22, 2019 08:24 AM
Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless

The state is drowning and Santa Barbara only has a kayak. Can’t save them all. Encourage them with warming shelters food and methadone and they’ll come and ever leave.

SantaBarbaraObserver Mar 21, 2019 12:00 PM
Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless

Actually LetMeGo, getting rid of the bums does fix our problem. Sure it does nothing for the bum's problem but this is about us, not them. If I were a bum, I'd move to BLM land near Quartzite. You can live rent free with hundreds, and in some months, thousands of other RV dwellers. One can buy a cheap RV for a couple of grand and live rent free. The weather is great, the views unbeatable but you won't be able to hang out on the beach all day and game the local Homeless Inc system... But you can live on $500 a month and if you're thrifty and learn to cook your own meals, at least have shelter and peace.

letmego Mar 21, 2019 10:51 AM
Increase in Unsheltered Santa Barbara County Homeless

That says something "Where they go, I don't care". They don't cease to exist. You bury your head in the sand if your expectation is that "move along" does...anything. It doesn't fix the problem.


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