On Friday January 14, local government, non-profit, business and faith communities won an eleventh hour battle for a 30-day federal deadline extension that will allow for the first step in an ambitious campaign to house the most vulnerable of those living on the streets in Santa Barbara County.

Each year, the County of Santa Barbara is required to report to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development the total number of homeless people living in the County. On February 28, the newly formed collaborative Common Ground Santa Barbara will introduce a new survey that complies with HUD requirements while also collecting meaningful data that will, for the first time, directly help to save lives.

Common Ground Santa Barbara is a collaborative effort of community members from the non-profit, governmental, business and faith communities of Santa Barbara County striving to end homelessness.

“The 100,000 Homes campaign is] the human welfare equivalent of NASA’s race to put a man on the moon.” –David Bornstein, The New York Times

Supervisor Doreen Farr and Congresswoman Lois Capps were instrumental in advocating for the waiver requested by the County’s Housing and Community Development Department when it appeared that HUD was likely to decline the request.

“Our elected leaders are representing a truly community-driven goal, through their efforts to ensure this urgent change at the highest level of housing policy,” said Rob Fredericks, volunteer co-leader of the Common Ground Santa Barbara South County team and Deputy Executive Director of the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara.

“Now our community can proceed with the planning and hard work to prepare for registry week, and as we endeavor to move folks into housing with necessary services in place, in the weeks and months following registry week,” Fredericks said.

Common Ground Santa Barbara is working alongside the national Common Ground nonprofit organization as part of their 100,000 Homes Campaign. During the week of February 28th – March 4th, 2011, community volunteers and dedicated experts will use Common Ground’s Vulnerability Index to survey persons experiencing street homelessness throughout Santa Barbara County to identify and prioritize those who are at the greatest risk of premature death on the streets.

This prioritization will target limited existing housing resources to those most in need, thereby saving lives and impacting the community through an immediate visible reduction in street homelessness and use of high cost emergency services.

While still a tight deadline, the extension of registry week until February 28 will give Common Ground Santa Barbara time to recruit and train the several hundred local volunteers needed to conduct the Vulnerability Index Survey. Training is scheduled for Sunday, February 27 and starting Monday, February 28, volunteers will visit all known homeless camps over three days, between 4:30 and 6:00 a.m.

Call for Volunteers: To volunteer in South County or to follow the Common Ground efforts, join the Common Ground Santa Barbara Registry Week Facebook Group or the website.

Training is designed for volunteers ranging from those with no prior experience in this area to those with extensive experience. Individuals, groups and businesses can also support the campaign with financial contributions that will be used to purchase restaurant and grocery store gift cards for meals for those in need during the survey.

January 18 North County Information Meeting (Santa Maria)

On Tues., January 18 at 3:30 p.m., an informational meeting for north county communities will be held at the Good Samaritan Shelter at 731 S. Lincoln Street, Santa Maria.

The 100,000 Homes campaign calls for key public and private organizations to come together, along with hundreds of volunteers from the community, to identify our community’s most vulnerable homeless and to align existing housing and supportive services to match the needs of these vulnerable individuals. The national goal is to permanently house 100,000 of these most vulnerable by July 2013.

In December, New York Times columnist David Bornstein wrote about the 100,000 Homes campaign: “It’s the human welfare equivalent of NASA’s race to put a man on the moon. Whether the goal is achieved or not, the campaign is shifting the way cities address a problem that has often been seen as more of a nuisance than a public health emergency.”

The first working meeting of the Common Ground Santa Barbara South County subcommittees took place on January 11th, to plan for the complex challenge of finding and surveying every homeless citizen during registry week, and the coordination of services needed to quickly house with supportive services those at the greatest risk. The South County team is responsible for the survey and coordination covering Carpinteria through Goleta.

In New York on January 31, thousands of volunteers will participate in their count. The City of Santa Monica is rallying over 200 volunteers for their January 26 efforts. To date, National Common Ground reports that 67 U.S. communities are now participating in the 100,000 Homes campaign and 7,203 people have been housed to date.


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