Forcing Homeless Issues to the Brink

Solution: Start up the South Coast Homeless Advisory Committee Again

Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

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The City Council came up with yet another ordinance to take away “unsightful” homeless personal items. What is the real issue here?

The Council allowed the only real shelter and day center — Casa Esperanza — to be closed and has done nothing to re-open one. (PATH Santa Barbara now offers programs and overnight shelter in inclement weather only with no day center or services.) Unhoused people have nowhere to sleep, get showers, medical help, eat, accept a few at the Rescue Mission, which cannot accommodate the numbers needed.

The Recreational Vehicle ordinance that ended families, couples, many women from living in an RV to protect themselves, store personal effects and food, and lock their doors ended up affecting citizens with Sprinters and other larger vehicles costing fees for yet another law that was aimed at the homeless. No proof of any accident or issue has ever been found! Instead of working with the few RV owners to help them park in a safe place off residential streets which would have been easier-they had been forced out of industrial areas, this ordinance was made that cost us all and tourism too.

Then came the city ordinance of shutting down all public parks at sunset with a hefty fine if you are caught there a bit past. Aimed at preventing the homeless from sleeping in a park, a human need and right when there is no shelter. It too affects all of our citizens in a negative way.

Now comes an ordinance to take personal effects off the streets while people are getting food, medical attention, other appointments, in an attempt to further force homelessness issues to the brink. It’s a very poor decision by the council without seeing the big picture. These are the only items these poor people own and costly to replace. The count is 28 people at most and many never venture on State Street. Who is behind this one?

I see a solution by re-opening South Coast Homeless Advisory Committee — SCHAC. This group met monthly and consisted of outreach workers, elected officials from City and County and shelter managers. Issues brought such as these mentioned were resolved without turning into another ordinance. Much was accomplished and the public now has nowhere for discussion and seeking solutions since its closure several years ago.

At SCHAC we were offered containers to store personal effects by MarBorg’s owner. We could camouflage these with shrubs and paint. The police can use them to store bikes and personal effects since they do not take all the items of a homeless person when arresting or taking to hospitals. They could be used for daily storage for people as long as we had them in various areas of the city. They could be open and operated by staff from outreach organizations.

There are answers when organized people put heads together creatively instead of always making laws that are harmful to all citizens. Why can’t City Council leaders set an example of finding helpful solutions instead of harmful ones? Homelessness is going to grow and keep coming. The Silver Tsunami is here and going to span another 30 years. Let’s look at the bigger picture and find real solutions.

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