The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution showing support of the county’s phase II community action plan to address homelessness.
In addition, the council appointed Mayor Cathy Murillo and Council member Alejandra Gutierrez to the county’s Elected Leaders Forum, a monthly meeting that will help coordinate and direct policy decisions for the region.
The purpose of bringing the plan to the council, which county staff has brought to all other local jurisdictions in the county, was to gain input as staff addresses community engagement and education, planning coordination, inventory and site mapping, policies and processes, dedicated funds, contracting best practices and regional capacity.
“This was a great presentation with so much information. We hear so much about how homelessness is a regional issue and I really appreciate that we have a regional response,” Council member Meagan Harmon said.
The current state of homelessness in the county is that the unsheltered population is increasing and encampment impacts are growing. County staff reported that the projected 2021 point in time count is 1,645 unsheltered individuals in the county and 126 in temporary shelter. The numbers for 2020 included 1,223 unsheltered individuals, and 2019 had 1,133 unsheltered individuals.
Based on housing assessments completed in Santa Barbara since Jan. 1, 2020, the average age of a homeless person in the city is 51 years old — 31% of homeless individuals are female; 68% are male; and 1% are gender non-conforming. Of those individuals, 59% state that emotional, physical or sexual trauma caused their current episode of homelessness, and 55% of them share that they have an income.
The numbers are similar for homeless families, except that the average head of household is 35 years old, and 85% of them are female and 15% are male.
County staff also shared disabling conditions reported by the homeless individuals in Santa Barbara. Citywide, 34% have mental health/brain injury; 30% have a substance use disorder; 17% have a developmental/learning disability; 44% have chronic health conditions; and 19% are physically disabled. The numbers are fairly similar countywide.
“It is an ambitious plan,” Rob Fredericks, CEO of the Housing Authority, said of the county’s phase II plan during public comment. “It has actual goals and dovetails nicely with SB ACT’s plan for the city to address homelessness … We need more appropriate and affordable housing with services to serve this vulnerable population.
“It is something we must do.”
Overall, the city to committed to: educating stakeholders on affordable and supportive housing; engaging businesses to hire homeless or formerly homeless individuals; creating a map of all lands for housing; identifying new sites for housing and vehicular parking programs; planning for a regional tax/bond local housing revenue creation program; maintaining a list of funds dedicated to homelessness; ensuring regional capacity to apply for/receive all new funding from the state; and coordinating and aligning all regional funding.
Mayor Pro Tem Oscar Gutierrez also requested that the county do more collaboration and outreach with faith-based organizations in Santa Barbara County, many of which also assist homeless populations with food drives and other community events.
“If we’re going to have an Elected Leaders Forum, I think a lot of the community would also support having a Religious Leaders Forum of some sort,” he said. “It’s all hands on deck and we need everyone’s help to be able to address this crisis.”