As Goleta works on its Homelessness Strategic Plan, which will be drafted by next April, the City Council heard a report a few weeks back in which the city’s homeless population was more clearly separated from Isla Vista’s.
The 2019 Point-in-Time count located 119 homeless people living unsheltered in the city, 41 on the street and 78 in vehicles. The count found that the Safe Parking program in Goleta hosted mostly disabled seniors, though in the past six months, more younger, employed people were using Safe Parking spots for overnight parking. More women lived in their cars than on the street — 44 percent compared to 15 percent, according to Kim Albers with Santa Barbara County’s Homeless Assistance Program.
The age of the people who lived without shelter was between 22 and 74 years, with 52 years the average. Goleta’s unsheltered were somewhat older than in the rest of the county: 65 percent were more than 50 years old, as opposed to 49 percent in other parts of the county. Rather than mental illness or substance abuse, the people stated that trauma — either emotional, physical, or sexual — was one cause of their loss of housing.
When outreach workers contact the people counted, they assess the person’s vulnerability, Albers explained, or where they fall on a scale of needs to successfully re-enter housing. For some, it’s help with rent or deposits that is needed to overcome an economic hurdle. For others it is more intensive care and management in permanent supportive housing. For Goleta, given its homeless population’s characteristics, about 35 units, or bedrooms, of permanent supportive housing would make a difference, Albers said.
In early September, not long after a Grand Jury report recommended cleaning up the Union Pacific corridor to help prevent railroad deaths, Goleta Public Works and several other agencies spent about a week doing just that. Dave Valadez, senior deputy with the Sheriff’s Office, which provides Goleta’s police service, is the city’s restorative policing officer. He visited homeless camps in the bushes alongside the 101 highway to let the people living there know that a team would soon be coming through to remove their belongings. One of the largest camps by Glen Annie turned out to be entirely one person, he said. In all, about eight people were contacted, he said, and offered relocation to the Rescue Mission. They’d all left by the time the cleanup crew came through, he said, and hadn’t yet returned.
“We’d already begun planning for the cleanup by the time the Grand Jury report came out,” said Councilmember Kyle Richards. “This is just one of the efforts we’re working on.” The city had made a number of small grants in the summer, he pointed out, totaling $37,000 in support to agencies coordinating programs like Home for Good and Safe Parking.