Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis

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Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis
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Source: Heal the Ocean

Earlier this week, on Wednesday, August 18, 2021, the City of Santa Barbara’s COVID-19 Homeless Task Force received Heal the Ocean’s recent survey findings on homeless encampments with a comparison of conditions documented by HTO in February 2021.

The survey was conducted by HTO Field Advisor Harry Rabin and his company On the Wave Productions, LLC., which has been monitoring homeless camps on the South Coast for over two years. For this most recent survey, Harry used a team that began its walking surveys from both ends – Goleta and Summerland – to collect images by drones and actual visits to campsites.

The survey has produced a GPS interactive map that can be examined for actual campsites.
Survey aerial from Google Earth. Image by On the Wave Productions.

In his report to the COVID-19 Task Force, Rabin gave a comparison between his survey and that of February 2021 to lend a perspective of current homeless activity;

  • The number of active homeless encampments has declined: In February 2021, there were 102 camps; Today (August 2021), that number has decreased to 55;
  • The estimated population of individuals without housing is also declining - February 2021: 260-320; August 2021: 125;
  • Around 67 homeless encampments have been cleaned up or removed since February 2021;
  • Levels of trash, refuse, and contamination has decreased substantially since February 2021.

Homeless encampments encountered during the survey in August 2021. (Photos by On the Wave Productions.)

In his reporting of findings, Harry speculated that Cal Trans freeway widening removed many camps, but other than some shelters being established, the shift in the population remains to be examined.

Harry’s survey also located 29 abandoned encampments that need to be removed from sensitive areas. For this work, Heal the Ocean has hired Andrew V. of Earthcomb to gather abandoned materials for pickup by MarBorg and other trash haulers, an operation that HTO is funding. Andrew has already cleaned up 3 homeless encampments in the North Fairview area of Goleta. 

Andrew V. cleaning up an abandoned camp near Haskell's beach. Self-photo by Andrew.

Harry’s ongoing surveys are useful for City and County officials to determine which programs and practices are working to solve the homeless problem in the community.

Additionally, Rabin’s company, On the Wave Productions, recently produced a documentary on the Isla Vista Pescadero Loft shelter for the homeless. The film, written and directed by Joey Szalkiewicz, demonstrates how permanent housing developments such as this successful charter project in Isla Vista provide homeless individuals with long-term stability and resources to thrive as community members.

The Santa Barbara COVID-19 Homeless Task Force will be presenting the HTO survey results to the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, August 24, 2021, during its regularly scheduled Board meeting. On that day, you can click here to tune in and watch.

Heal the Ocean has been actively involved in cleaning up abandoned homeless camps in environmentally sensitive areas because the camps often contain trash and human waste that threaten the ocean environment.

Note: The City of Santa Barbara has established a homeless camp reporting system.
Click here for the form to report an encampment.

Abandoned camps can also be reported to Heal the Ocean for cleanup.

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fitz Aug 23, 2021 11:23 AM
Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis

Thank you Heal the Ocean for this informative presentation and the good work you are doing regarding homeless encampments. Please share this information with Caltrans and Union Pacific. I think if more local residents volunteered with Caltrans Adopt A Highway, our highways would be less littered and clean up would go much more quickly.

Steve Chitren Aug 23, 2021 12:13 PM
Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis

Ummm good job w/ a survey but at this point there is yet another group providing 'survey' data which probably doesn't line up w/ the same metrics used by the many other agencies doing the same. Did HTO try to coordinate w/ them prior to embarking under their own silo?

bosco Aug 23, 2021 12:18 PM
Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis

This great to see. HTO seems to be doing a great job of gathering and communicating this information. I hope this survey continues every 6 months and we get to see the results and trends. It's obvious that many camps have been taken down in the last few months but it sure looks like I'm seeing new ones pop up along the freeway on a regular basis. Consistent surveys like this should be an effective measurement of where the homeless problem is trending. Keep it up. I stopped donating to local shelters a few years ago as I feel like they're just fueling the problem rather than solving it. Along with their speedy response to cleaning a beach camp a few months ago, HTO is proving to be an effective organization at addressing the homeless issues. Next time I have some money set aside for charitable donations, I'm thinking HTO is it.

Byzantium Aug 23, 2021 02:42 PM
Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis

HTO, thank you for finally getting serious about this major source of ocean run off pollution. These efforts dignify your mission statement. Keep it up. Public wants to help, but not to help more vagrant camp enabling and further maintenance of the status quo

RHS Aug 23, 2021 06:15 PM
Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis

HTO ignores, apparently, the gross leakage in the Montecito area from septic tanks. One suspects that whatever the homeless are doing it is dwarfed by the historic reluctance of that affluent community to fund a sewage treatment system. But why should they, they can just dump their waste in the creeks and aquifers as they are out of our sight.

edney Aug 23, 2021 07:03 PM
Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis

Here is a map of Septic systems in Montecito
Only one place south of the free way is on septic and it is north of the RR tracks.
The others are a long way away from the ocean
The homeless encampments introduce raw sewage into the oceans.
Septic systems put wastewater underground where it is filtered down through the soil.
The worst septic system that puts the blackwater underground is better than a crap anywhere you like on the surface system

RHS Aug 24, 2021 09:59 AM
Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis

Edney, thanks for the map. This is more current than my memory served me but I still see about 8 parcels (unknown how many residences) that directly abut the creeks that drain into the ocean (the same issue you note re the homeless camps). We also know that septic systems are notorious for failing to actually transform sewage waste into safe ground water. But, yes, nice to see the progress that has been made in Montecito.

fitz Aug 24, 2021 10:50 AM
Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis

How about some SB, Goleta, and Monecito service organizations 'adopt' a homeless encampment and do like HTO did. Work with the agencies to give notice to those living in the camp that it is going to be cleaned up at a certain time. Go there and talk with the homeless and see what help they need. Then get a crew together, rent some dumpsters, and clean it up. Period. Keep monitoring the area to make sure no one comes back to reestablish the camp. End of encampment. One 'camp' at a time. Years of failed policies have resulted in encampment growth, fires, and other health and social issues. As was said earlier, people would gladly donate to efforts like this.

a-1629828115 Aug 24, 2021 11:01 AM
Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis

Montecito has had a homeless outreach project called Hands Across Montecito since December. Neighbors do outreach, and work with City Net and Behavioral Wellness to place people into hotels, housing and family reunifications, and clear camps. Andrew was the first person we housed in Montecito, and we introduced him to Heal The Ocean.

Chip of SB Aug 24, 2021 12:22 PM
Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis

Cleaning up encampments and calling attention to this problem is extremely helpful. If we can keep trash from getting into the ocean I am all for it. I wish we could do something to heal all the drug addicts who live in these squalid encampments too. Since we are not allowed to help them overcome addiction, I suppose the best we can hope to do is drive them away.

biguglystick Aug 29, 2021 09:49 AM
Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis

With the cost of housing, the homeless problem will only get worse and WORSE. It won't just be drug addicts and society's outcasts, it will be families living in their cars until that breaks down and they are on the streets.

Byzantium Aug 29, 2021 11:00 AM
Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis

Those who demand to live in high cost areas, but can't afford it will finally get the message; move to where you can afford the housing, for your car and family. This is not rocket science. It is just a simple math.

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