The Goleta City Council adopted its first ever strategic homelessness plan Tuesday evening in an effort to get individuals experiencing homelessness out of the streets and into homes.
The council was recommended to allocate $115,000 for homelessness initiatives in the city’s fiscal year 2021/2022 budget as a placeholder, but council members decided against doing so for lack of specificity.
“We have to have a plan in front of us to show how we’re spending our money and make sure all the obligations for a city contract have been met, so I will not support setting aside any money just because we can use it,” Council member Roger Aceves said. “I know we can use it. I know we have a General Fund, but I want a reason to articulate where we’re spending the dollars.”
In addition to needing a solid plan of spending, the council suggested adding an objective to increase access to affordable, quality child care and day care for at-risk families. Council members also expressed that they think $115,000 may not be adequate to address all the objectives listed.
“My concern with it was that I wanted to see housing first, not services first,” Council member Stuart Kasdin said. “I would like more money set aside, ideally. When I think of ‘what are some of the biggest concerns for the public,’ when I think about ‘what do people care about out there in our general public,’ you have pavement and homelessness. (Those) are among the two biggest things … Honestly, I think we’re going to need more (money). We want to house people. We want to show progress.”
However, the council sang praises of the plan put together by city staff and agreed to wait until the city’s upcoming budget process to consider funding for homeless initiatives using the new plan for guidance.
“Part of the value of having the strategic plan is that it will help us identify what our priorities are and where we should be focusing our funding,” Council member Kyle Richards said. “As a member of the Grant Review Funding (Standing) Committee for two years, I know one of the frustrations was we would often get proposals that deal with the homeless and homeless prevention from a number of good organizations in our community without having a real strategic vision or any goals or objectives for the city.
“I think that with the approval of this plan, that will benefit us greatly as we move forward because then we’ve now identified what our goals are and what the objectives are in meeting them.”
The plan aims to provide direction and clarity around needs, service gaps and priorities to make effective and strategic funding decisions that serve both the existing homeless population and those at risk of becoming homeless. Four main goals drive the plan’s objectives: increasing access to critical services for the homeless; reducing impacts of homelessness on the community; preventing at-risk individuals from becoming homeless; and increasing the supply of transitional housing, permanent supportive housing and emergency housing.
Many short-term, mid-term and long-term objectives fall under these goals. In the next two years, regarding increasing access to critical services, the city wants to: develop public restrooms with showers open 24/7; add Safe Parking lots; establish a day center and a warming center in Goleta; support a weekly meal program; provide public hydration stations available 24/7; and establish a Coordinated Entry System location in Goleta, among others.
To reduce impacts on the community and prevent at-risk individuals from falling into homelessness in the next three to five years, the plan provides the following objectives: establish a storage facility for homeless residents; add trash cans available for use; plant native brambles to discourage encampments; work with Caltrans and Union Pacific Railway to reduce fire loads in the Highway 101/railroad corridor; support programs that inform low-income renters of their rights; support rapid re-housing programs; and support workforce training programs, among others.
Finally, looking further down the road in five to 10 years, the city hopes to support regional efforts to develop homeless housing in the county; develop interim housing or provide units in Goleta; establish a new emergency shelter in Goleta or Isla Vista; develop a tiny home village or a designated camping area; and increase the supply of affordable housing, among others.
“We are proud to be one of the few cities on the Central Coast with a strategic plan to address homelessness,” Mayor Paula Perotte said. “Unfortunately, the number of people experiencing homelessness has continued to grow and many of our residents are at risk of becoming homeless due to the pandemic. The City of Goleta wants to play a role in trying to address this regional problem.”
The plan can be reviewed at https://tinyurl.com/GoletaHomelessnessPlan.