A community forum on the causes and solutions to homelessness was held Thursday night at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, part of the 11-day fundraising event, Survival Santa Barbara. Panelists from the full political spectrum were present, including City Councilmember Dale Francisco, Deputy Public Defender Deedra Edgar and the formerly homeless David Hopper Hopkins. The prevalence of mental illness and substance abuse issues among the homeless population was the dominant theme throughout. The looming question was, not surprisingly, what resources and facilities do the City and County have at their disposal to deal with homeless persons who suffer from mental illness and/or substance abuse issues.
Edgar explained that the law provides for involuntary rehabilitation and medication for the mentally ill through mental health conservatorships. Through these, the County can take legal responsibility for a person who cannot be responsible for themselves. The problem, Edgar explained, is that the City of Santa Barbara lacks a place for the mentally ill to go. “Unless we have a place to put them, they’re going to stay out on the streets,” she said. To read more, see homelessinsb.org.