City of Santa Barbara’s new employee tasked with day-to-day
responsibility of implementing strategies
City officials have filled a new position dedicated specifically for addressing homelessness in Santa Barbara.
Barbara Andersen, tapped two months ago to fill the position of senior assistant to the city administrator, told the News-Press that she is thrilled to have the job.
“I hit the ground running,” she said Monday. “It has been so invigorating, honestly, to be working on these complex and challenging issues that are right for innovation, opportunity and change.
“It’s been really incredible to be part of the city team. Everybody is working together and is supportive, and has a ‘get-it-done’ attitude.”
Ms. Andersen, who is also tasked with working on the issue of police oversight and transparency, was hired because of her professional experience and analytical skill, Rene Eyerly, assistant city administrator, told the News-Press Monday.
“Barbara does have experience in both of those areas so it was a good match for our needs,” she said.
After an extensive background of working with law enforcement and addressing police oversight and transparency issues, Ms. Andersen crossed over to addressing the issue of homelessness. She worked as director of facilitation for Santa Barbara ACT, a local nonprofit that works on homelessness and housing issues citywide and in South County.
“It certainly is timely,” Mayor Randy Rowse told the News-Press. “We do need a point person when it comes to dealing with different homeless service organizations.”
Ms. Andersen has the day-to-day responsibility of implementing strategies affecting the homeless across all city departments, and to better engage and coordinate with Santa Barbara County because the county has more state and federal resources to draw upon.
“My job is to make sure they really hear our needs, which are different from the county day to day,” she said. “It’s up to us to share with them where we need prioritization” when it comes to providing shelter, housing and help for those with substance abuse and mental health problems.
According to Ms. Eyerly, the goal is to make such “wrap-around” services available to those who are unhoused “and ultimately get them into housing and off the streets.” The city, she said, helps them get those services by making sure they have a driver’s license and access to Social Security cards to have access to assistance.
“The county and nonprofits really provide those services, and we need to be in communication with them so they understand the city’s perspective on this, that we want to help our unhoused population and the whole community,” Ms. Eyerly said.
Having the homeless line State Street, for example, “is a community strain for everyone: the homeless, businesses and pedestrians,” she said. “The goal is to reduce that impact in a supportive way.”
That’s why Ms. Andersen was chosen, Mayor Rowse said.
“Barbara has a lot of experience dealing with the county,” he said. “She’s very intimate with all the players and all departments, and has a lot of talent and experience in that realm. I’m pleased she’s conversant in all those subjects. She’s very astute and a very good communicator.”