Remember March 6, 2009, the sunny morning when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced from De a Guerra Plaza that it was suing the City of Santa Barbara for having laws illegalizing sleeping and camping in public? Have you ever wondered how that lawsuit was resolved or if the fanfare changed anything for homeless people who must sleep outside here?
The dispute was settled actually. It was settled last summer, on August 24, one year ago this week. Basically, the ACLU agreed to drop the dispute if the city did the following three things:
- 1. Foster, with both financial and planning assistance, the construction of between 105 to 115 units of supportive housing for very low- or just plain low-income people and families—63 units of which must be ready for occupancy by December 2011.
- 2. Facilitate the coordination of street outreach teams operating here, and encourage the Ten Year Plan (aka, Bringing Our Community Home), so they can all collaboratively work to identify chronically unsheltered homeless people and when possible steer them into housing and employment. As part of this, the settlement demanded that the city compile a list of the 50 most chronically homeless people within its boundaries and give them first dibs on the newly constructed supportive housing units or other units.
- 3. Lastly, after developing this list of 50, the City Attorney’s office must create a program to avoid arresting and prosecuting anyone on it who is disabled for violations of the no-sleeping and no-camping laws, unless they’ve been offered housing and refused it.
In a nutshell, those are the things the ACLU demanded from the city in exchange for dropping its suit, which it did.
A year has passed. How is the city progressing on its side of the bargain? To read more, see homelessinsb.org.