As homelessness rates continue to surge state-wide, the City of Goleta is tackling its share of the crisis in its eight-mile stretch of Santa Barbara County.
The city held its first open house Wednesday to hear ideas to help solve homelessness from Goleta residents and business owners. Organizations like Peoples’ Self-Help Housing, New Beginning’s Safe Parking Program, Showers of Blessing, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, and a handful of others set up booths to interact one-on-one with attendees.
“The feedback from the community so far has been so compassionate,” said the event’s organizer, Dominique Samario, from Goleta’s Neighborhood Services and Public Safety Department. “The question I keep getting asked is if we [the City of Goleta] have spoken with the homeless and asked them what they need.”
Samario confirmed that the city has spoken with people in the homeless population, and a place to store their belongings and a daytime center are primary on their list. The open house is part of a greater Goleta initiative to create its first-ever comprehensive Homelessness Strategic Plan. The 2019 point-in-time count for homeless individuals in Santa Barbara County totaled 1,803 people — 119 of them are in Goleta.
“The homeless population in Goleta is different than in Santa Barbara,” Samario explained. “The population in Goleta tends to be older and a greater percentage of them live in vehicles than in Santa Barbara.”
The Isla Vista Youth Project was one of the 10 or so organizations that held a booth at the Goleta Community Center. The organization helps families meet their primary needs by providing MediCal assistance, monthly food distribution from the food pantry, and more. Ana Maya, the family resource center coordinator, explained that while many people believe the organization is only for children and families, they serve anyone in need, including many homeless individuals.
“There are probably about 20 homeless people that use any of our services quarterly,” Maya said. “The most used service is the food pantry.” She said that the Isla Vista Youth Project partnered with Showers of Blessing, another organization at the open house that provides homeless individuals with showers and free hygiene items.
Several housing organizations also attended the event, including People’s Self-Help Housing, the largest nonprofit affordable housing developer on the Central Coast. Kevin Wilson, one of its project managers, explained that developing affordable housing in Goleta is difficult because there isn’t much space to build. However, he said, the organization did purchase an Isla Vista apartment complex.
“We are in the process of attempting to break ground on a 56-unit complex in I.V.,” Wilson said. “The units are for farmworkers and middle- to low-income families.” The organization’s mission is to build homes for low-income or formerly homeless individuals.
Members of the public with any feedback who couldn’t attend the event are invited to fill out the online survey here.