When it comes to Santa Barbara’s homeless problem, City Councilmember Dale Francisco blames policy decisions of the past, but finds hope in The City of Santa Monica’s approach to the issue. He cites the breakdown of the mental health system for setting the stage for the homeless crises communities face today. But he also views the problem as something this community must tackle through collaborations between the city, police and outreach organizations.
Francisco believes that of the homeless on the streets of Santa Barbara today, between 30-40% have a mental illnesses and can’t care for themselves. The root of this problem lies in the transition from the state mental hospital system to a community clinic system. Francisco thinks the proponents of the community clinic model overlooked the limits of medication in treating all mentally ill patients. They didn’t plan for the patients who wouldn’t be helped by medication. While the community clinic model was effective for patients with mild problems, those with serious mental illnesses went untreated. These are the people who end up on the streets, he said.
“We as a society have to find a way to take care of those people,” he said, “and it’s going to mean changes to state law.” To read more, see homelessinsb.org.