Day Late, A Dollar Short

Former homeless advocate and well-known Santa Barbara street
person James Lee Magruder, 44, died Monday at Cottage Hospital just
a day before the City Council committed research funds aimed at
ending chronic homelessness in Santa Barbara. Magruder’s story
underlines the basic argument touted by those championing the
study — that Santa Barbara County wastes millions of dollars by
ineffectively addressing the problems related to homelessness.
Magruder, for instance, was cited or arrested by Santa Barbara
police 848 times since 1982, mostly for public intoxication, but
also civil disobedience and assault. Over two-plus decades,
Magruder checked in and out of the county jail and Cottage
Hospital’s emergency room countless times, at great cost to the
county.

Roger Heroux, the county’s former health czar, estimated there
were 6,200 homeless people countywide; roughly half of those,
Heroux said, reside on the South Coast, sapping local government
resources by some $18 million per year. Add in the cost of jailing
them, Heroux added, and that number spikes considerably. By
investing in more cost-effective ways to serve and house the
chronically homeless, Heroux and other homeless advocates contend
the county could save millions of dollars each year

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