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As hundreds of volunteers hit the streets throughout the county in search of homeless people to count as part of this year’s Point-in-Time homeless count, Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo said progress has been made identifying a possible site where homeless people can store their belongings.
The facility is located behind the Metropolitan Transit District’s downtown bus depot on Chapala Street and was installed as a bicycle storage shed for bicycle commuters. To date, only one bicycle commuter has signed up for the space. Less clear is who would be eligible to use the prospective storage locker: any and all homeless people with gear to store, or just those engaged in efforts to turn their lives around?
In the meantime, street outreach workers with City Net, an Orange County faith-based nonprofit, have focused their energies on the 500 block of State Street, identifying 41 chronically homeless individuals most likely to engage in disruptive behavior. Of those, nine have either been reunited with family members or secured housing. To date, no decisions have been made regarding the storage center.
The homeless count took place this Wednesday morning as part of federal funding requirements imposed on local communities who receive federal funding for homeless programs. Typically, such counts take place every two years; this year’s endeavor marks the first time such counts have been conducted in Santa Barbara three straight years.
Although Santa Barbara’s homeless numbers have remained fairly consistent in past years — unlike other parts of the state that have experienced dramatic spikes — the issue has achieved a critical mass urgency given the chronic economic malaise of the central business district and the uptick in number of sidewalk squatters. This happened as a result of court rulings that limit cities from enforcing rules against sleeping in public.