What used to be a fraternity house became home to about 35 homeless individuals in Isla Vista this week as the brand-new apartment complex, Pescadero Lofts, opened its doors. “When I say homeless, I do mean homeless,” county Housing Authority executive director Fred Lamont told the handful of dignitaries and more than 100 community members gathered to tour the units on Tuesday. The project was built with federal tax credits, and redevelopment funds paid for the land. About 80 percent of those who moved in were surveyed in the 2013 homeless count, which found about 80 people in the Isla Vista area.
Preparation efforts continued this week for the next count and “vulnerability index” survey — slated for January 28 and 29, 2015 — which occurs every other year. New this year, the 500 or so volunteers who take to the streets will use a smartphone app to ask questions, which will not only save data-entry time (and eliminate human error) but also allow the ongoing lists to appropriately match resources.
During the survey, equipped with $5 gift cards, socks, and cereal bars, the volunteers spend two days speaking to as many folks on the streets as possible — inquiring about housing history, number of emergency room visits, number of times the person has been attacked or offered money for sex, where the person usually sleeps, among other questions. “It’s a brief intervention,” advised Father Jon Hedges, who doubles as assistant pastor at St. Athanasius Orthodox Church and ADMHS (Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services) case manager. “[We] don’t make unrealistic promises,” he added.
Hedges is heavily involved in both efforts. He was instrumental in creating the list of new loft residents, all of whom he knows personally. Most of the residents were “housing ready” — likely to live on their own with supportive services. Speaking to both count volunteers and community members this week, Hedges counseled against using the phrase “homeless population.” He said, “These are people.”
For more information on the vulnerability survey, including volunteer training dates, visit this website.