Without any real notice to the public, the City of Santa Barbara decided on Tuesday to approve a grant application to install 40 mobile homes on top of the commuter parking lot at Castillo and Carrillo for the sole use of the top 50 treatment-resistant homeless individuals in the city. These individuals are expected to present with signs of mental illness and/or be severely addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The proposed plan did not include a real plan of where the city will park 150 cars that currently park at Castillo and Carrillo during the day or if the permit holders would face added costs. It also did not have a solid solution as to where the residents in the New Beginnings program, who use the lot at night, would go or if they would share the lot with the “new residents.” Rob Fredericks, of the city’s Housing Authority, speculated that the city might consider not returning the commuter lot to parking but to continue to operate it for supportive housing indefinitely.
The city rejected including any options in its application that included services, rental assistance, or capital projects focused on other homeless populations or those at imminent risk of homelessness, which it could have done if it had chosen to do so. Eligible beneficiaries under 24 CFR 578.3 include families, displaced tenants, domestic abuse victims, unaccompanied youth (including former foster children), and others.
The Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) grant the city is seeking for mobile homes is for $3,130,875, which will span 30 months. Grants will be awarded based on a ranking system that will give the city more points (and a higher rank over other cities) if those on the streets are housed. Preventing someone from falling into homelessness does not increase the city’s ranking as much. So, in order to win the grant and edge out other cities targeting other populations, the city decided to solely focus on the homeless individuals living on the streets, which happens to help downtown property and business owners by removing the homeless from State Street. The plan may work or it may not. As an added benefit, it might help property owners fill vacancies on State Street.
The anticipated cost for each resident from the treatment-resistant homeless population is $2,500 per month, which includes 24/7 security, a police workstation, and other services. I imagine even a small portion of this total monthly cost could have helped keep many others, including families, from falling into homelessness. It is a shame that the city decided to choose to buy mobile homes for one group and do nothing for the other, when it had an opportunity to help both. I for one do not understand why the mayor or councilmembers Sneddon, Gutierrez, Friedman, or Hart wouldn’t have demanded a change.
From beginning to end, this process chosen by the city to identify which population to serve was abnormal. First of all, there was no transparency or community involvement while the city decided to focus on mobile homes over other options. Next, there was no discussion to include a variety of homeless populations that exist in Santa Barbara, but rather to solely focus on serving the most visible homeless population. Finally, there was no meaningfully notice to nearby residents once the city determined that it would place mobile homes at Castillo and Carrillo.
Despite the pleas to slow down, reconsider, or to make changes, the city refused to compromise or change the application. Nothing the neighborhood residents, Councilmember Randy Rowse, or Councilmember Jason Dominguez said moved anyone. This leaves residents to wonder what kind of projects the city will push into their areas without notice or community involvement and if they will be worse than this one.
If you want to voice your opinion on the process the city followed, lack of transparency, focus on one homeless population over other, the city’s decision to approve the application, or ask councilmembers not to accept any grant funding due to the lack of community involvement and transparency or any other reason, please email: SBCityCouncil@santabarbaraca.gov.
Residents interested in making public comments on the city’s application can attend the meeting where the countywide HEAP grant recommendations will be approved. The CoC Board meeting will be held on November 29 from 1-3 p.m. at the Lake Cachuma Clubhouse, at Lake Cachuma, located at 1 Lakeview Drive, Santa Barbara. If you can’t make the meeting, you can send a letter about the City of Santa Barbara’s HEAP grant application to email@example.com.
Editor’s Note: In reply to this letter, the city stated that residents and businesses within 300 feet of the site were given flyers on November 10 indicating in-person and written comments would be accepted. The criteria for selecting new residents would be the duration or chronic nature of their homelessness, vulnerability, and use of services. New Beginnings will continue to use the lot, and commuters are being offered other parking lots. City Net, the program’s street outreach partner, will not turn down services to any vulnerable homeless individual it encounters, including families, displaced tenants, domestic abuse victims, unaccompanied youth (including former foster children), and others. The grant includes intensive street outreach and case management, Restorative Police enhancements, and medical services for the entire city, not just State Street. The timeline for the grant or notices were not in the city’s control, but dictated by the application process. The next meeting on the HEAP grant will be held on November 28 at 5:30 p.m. at the Louis Lowry Davis Recreation Center, 1232 De la Vina Street. (The November 29 meeting is for final approvals.) A city website contains updated information: santabarbaraca.gov/HEAP. Please send letters or comments firstname.lastname@example.org.