There are 1,455 homeless individuals living in Santa Barbara County, according to the most recent Vulnerability Index Survey. The number remained almost unchanged since the last survey in 2013, which tallied 1,466 individuals on the streets. The results were reported Tuesday at a briefing by representatives of the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness (C3H) and Common Ground Santa Barbara County. Since May 2013, more than 900 county transients have been housed, they said.
The City of Santa Barbara accounts for the greatest number of homeless individuals in the county with 893. Santa Maria has the second largest population with 324. Surveyors counted 62 homeless people in Isla Vista and 37 in Goleta. More than half of all respondents lived in Santa Barbara County prior to becoming homeless; 22.5 percent came from elsewhere in the state.
Of those surveyed, 620 are considered chronically homeless — individuals with a disabling condition who have either been continually transient for a year or longer, or who have experienced four or more episodes of homelessness in the past three years. Respondents reported being without a residence an average of 5.5 years. Homelessness hit area veterans hardest, with veterans reporting an average of 8.3 years on the streets. Approximately 15 percent of all respondents identified as veterans.
The number of families surveyed increased since the 2011 count, jumping from 73 to 132. A third of all respondents said they have experienced domestic violence, and 57 percent reported other kinds of trauma. Sixty-four percent have a mental illness; of those, 48 percent have a severe mental illness.