Did You Know? Bonnie Donovan
“America is a tune. It must be sung together.”
— Gerald Stanley Lee
Like millions of concerned citizens in today’s world, the contributors to Did You Know? have been disdainfully watching the direction the culture is taking.
Many would agree that the past several decades have seen a deconstruction and rejection of many of the values upon which not just this nation, but all democratic nations have been built.
Traditions and values have been trampled, and some even destroyed.
As we watch the results of the world trying to reinvent the wheel with its own system of morality, we have witnessed tragic results.
Some of those results continue to be the subject of many of our articles over the past few years. Case in point last week is the continuing issue of homelessness.
Another fall-out of this deconstruction of morality and tradition has resulted in a tragic increase in the children being brought into the foster care program, right here in Santa Barbara County, as reported last week by the News-Press. Along with discarding values is the key issue of beauty, being disregarded for the sake of expediency, however that gets translated. Guarding the beauty of this rare town is another key principle to which we adhere as the guiding factor in writing this column.
Did You Know? poses a question of priority to all who are running for election in the city council and mayoral race this November, only four months from now, “How are you going to protect Santa Barbara against the attacks of Senate Bills 9 and 10, both of which destroy our single-family neighborhoods?”
Santa Barbara’s biggest concerns revolve around housing, both protecting and providing it. Did You Know? remains hopeful that the City Net-negotiated, 120-day lease of the Rose Garden Inn on upper State Street will follow through with the monitoring of the residents, as was proposed. With the price tag for this project at $1.6 million to house “up to 50” homeless residents for 120 days, the guidelines need to be enforced, and the security for the neighborhood, which has been promised to the citizens, must be monitored.
The city is asking Santa Barbarans to subsidize what isn’t covered by the America’s Rescue Plan Act. Astute accountability and enforcement for all claims of sobriety of residents and rules including no outside visitors is necessary.
We repeat: $1.6 million dollars for four months for up to 50 people. We also care about the homeless in Santa Barbara, but that’s a lot of money. Councilman Mike Jordan posed important questions, including why aren’t the “72-hour vacate notice” posted at the transient camps now, since the removals begin Monday.
He asked if the city would be charged for rooms if the transients refused to be housed. He was told that because the hotel has previously booked reservations, the entire hotel isn’t available until August! Still Mr. Jordan’s questions went unanswered by SB Act, Citi Net or the city staff.
Councilman Jordan and the Santa Barbara City Council may need to be more direct to get a straight answer from City Net/ SB Act, etc. For example, if a 36-room hotel already booked reservations for half of the hotel rooms, how many rooms actually remain available? The answer is 18. If then of those 18 rooms, only eight homeless people from the fire-prone areas move into the hotel, is the city/entity still charged for the unoccupied rooms? The answer would be yes because of the master lease contract.
Another question arises: Why for April’s contract was the cost $480,000 for six months for 15 hotel rooms, (to house 15 to 25 homeless)?
Divided by six months, the amount equals $80,000. Divided by 15 homeless people, the amount equals $5,333.33 per month per person. Yet by July the cost is now $1.6 million divided by four months, which is $400,000 per month. Divided by 36 homeless people, that’s $11,111.11 per month per person.
Did You Know? wants to know: Is April’s “six-month hotel deal” being combined with July’s “four-month hotel deal”?
We wonder because two weeks ago, we asked SBACT/City Net and staff during a Regional Action Plan meeting, “Is the motel option for a master lease able to accommodate 50 homeless in separate rooms?”
They answered yes, however the Rose Garden Inn is a 36- room hotel! Are we being double billed by the “homeless-care agencies”? Are the rooms already paid for from April’s contract being double-invoiced since we are charged again for July’s contract for the 14 additional rooms needed for the 50 homeless from the fire-prone areas?
Hotel Rules for the transients from fire-prone encampments include: no guests on the property and no visiting each other inside fellow residents’ rooms. Picnic tables are provided outside for gathering, which is encouraged.
So, attention, neighbors, until August, you may see groups of people coming and going who are vacationers renting the hotel rooms. The vacationers who are paying full freight for their hotel rooms. Trivago, anyone?
As far as security goes, per Interim Police Chief Bernard Melekian, 9-1-1 calls to the temporary housing at the Rose Garden Inn will be dispatched according to severity and priority of the incident. The chief agreed that this hotel set-up better serves the security for the neighborhood, compared to tent cities.
Did You Know? is perplexed by SBACT/CityNet and staff’s previous reasons that a downtown parking lot (Castillo Street commuter lot) would work while the Santa Barbara Airport would not because “the houseless won’t participate if the location is outside of their eight-block radius” of needs and their wrap-around services.” Yet now it is suitable to move the transients 26 to 30 blocks away from “their eight-block radius.” Why is this OK now? Is it because City Nets vans will do all the transporting to their appointments, etc.? How and when does the ownership of responsibility figure into this matrix? Will Alcoholic Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous be offered meetings twice a day on the premises? We are told it takes only 30 days to create a new habit.
Why are SBACT/City Net and staff asking Santa Barbara neighborhoods for help locating the homeless, if SBACT/City Net and staff are reaching out to the homeless 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays?
On Feb 2, residents answered their call for the neighborhood walk, but CitiNet and SB Act refused to venture onto the railroad tracks to see the encampment that two months later became the scene of a fire thatburned through the fence and onto the adjacent private property, causing significant damage.
During COVID-19, the city moved the homeless from the Fig Tree Park and across the street to the Caltrans property.
The city also moved them out of Pershing Park, which caused the homeless to camp on the railroad tracks and the freeway on/off ramps. Basically, the city moved the problem out of their jurisdiction.
When the city contracted with SBACT and CityNet approximately three years ago, “the funded groups serving the houseless” said the necessary multiple interactions with the homeless take time and are needed to gain their trust to enroll them into their programs. How long will that be?
Of the purported 947 houseless individuals living in Santa Barbara, only 500 have contacts with the agency. We are told by these professionals that 75% of all homeless are Santa Barbara residents. How can that number be known if only half of the homeless have been contacted? How can we be sure that half of that half is from Santa Barbara?
Many taxpayers are asking the same question: How do we prevent Santa Barbara from becoming a beacon for the homeless with such attractive all-inclusive services and programs? After all, with no reasonable housing options in Santa Barbara, is it more cost effective to come here as houseless rather than as a responsible person? The line moves faster, and the pay-out lasts longer.
We salute Councilmembers Mike Jordan and Eric Friedman for their fortitude and determination to bring the Emergency Declaration to fruition. Credit due where credit earned.
Today, on the Fourth of July, we celebrate liberty and justice for all. For those who feel they can’t celebrate America and everything she stands for, remember, no one is keeping you here. Take your discontent and go where the sun shines brighter, for you. But go.
“American is another name for opportunity.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
On this day, let us honor those who fought and died for our freedom to create this great nation. Remember this nation of people who share the freedom of liberty, of life, the right to the pursuit of happiness. The freedom to choose, to dissent, to work, to play, and much more. (See the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights). The sky’s the limit.
Happy 245th birthday, America!
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
— Thomas Paine