County Supervisors Move Forward with Plan to Address Homelessness
By edhat staff
Santa Barbara County Supervisors unanimously agreed to move forward with a community action plan to address homelessness.
The special meeting took place on Tuesday where the Board of Supervisors reviewed the 100-page Phase II Community Action Plan that included goals and strategies to reduce the homeless population in the county while also ensuring compliance with state requirements.
The plan identifies five strategies that include increasing access to safe and affordable housing, delivering tailored supportive services, building a collective action plan, strengthening support systems, and building provider capacity to address the needs of specific populations. Some of these specific populations include veterans, youth, and families.
The county is estimating there are nearly 2,200 homeless people within the county. Last year they counted 1,897 due to the "Point in Time" count of unsheltered people, but the count did not take place this year due to COVID-19.
A transient resting near the Highway 101 offramp at Storke Road in Goleta (Photo: Josh Blair)
The projection includes 1,662 unsheltered people, 126 in temporary shelter, and 407 sheltered. Due to the pandemic, county shelters were required to decrease their capacity to create distancing between their residents.
In 2020, there were 4,226 people who were provided shelter or services due to being homeless, 768 of those were children. This is compared to 3,633 in 2019.
The report states 79% of people became homeless in Santa Barbara County with 61% living the majority of their life in the area.
Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig reported 448 total transient-related incident responses in 2020. The majority, 401, were emergency medical service responses while 47 were fire-related. The department inspected 21 encampments and performs weekly fire inspections at the Pallet House project and People's Park in Isla Vista.
With increased outreach in homeless encampments, the county has seen an increase from 9% successful placement in temporary or permanent housing in 2017 to 57% success in 2020.
Outreach is being conducted in Isla Vista, Butterfly Beach, East Beach, Goleta Beach, the Milpas Street corridor, City of Lompoc and Lompoc riverbed, and in Santa Maria.
Officials stating the demand for affordable housing within the county far exceeds what is available making it more difficult to find temporary or permanent housing. The supervisors agreed to review areas in their district where additional housing could be developed.
The key actions that are currently underway are securing permanent housing for veterans and youth, utilizing all of the one-time funding from the state, opening the South County Navigation Center to direct services to those in need, addressing COVID-19 impacts and temporary emergency shelters, full lease of new developments with adequate housing retention services, provider capacity-building, and expanded use of the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) to collect data.
Within the next six months, officials will identify sites for additional shelters and programs, increase prevention programs for at-risk homelessness, and adopt the plan region-wide to ensure commitment.
The full plan is available below: