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