Heal the Ocean Provides Survey to Help with Homeless Crisis

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.


Written by healtheocean

Heal the Ocean focuses on wastewater infrastructure – sewers and septic systems – as well as ocean dumping practices that have contributed to ocean pollution. They are focused on Santa Barbara County, but their methods now serve as a model for other coastal communities across the country. Learn more at https://www.healtheocean.org/

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  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

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