Goleta is about mid-stream in its quest to organize help for people who are homeless, having held several community meetings and surveyed its citizens, including about 50 individuals currently without a traditional home. Safety was a chief concern for all, both the homed and those without a home, with the lack of affordable housing coming in a close second. No place to put belongings was an issue among 81 percent of the homeless people who responded. When asked why they didn’t want to go to a shelter, about a quarter said being separated from their belongings was an issue, and more than half said they wanted their own space.
That corresponded roughly with the number of people living in their vehicle, 78 individuals according to the 2019 Point-in-Time count, in the universe of 119 homeless people who called Goleta home. An early look at the 2020 count, which isn’t yet entirely compiled, said senior project manager Claudia Dato, indicates the numbers have increased.
Dato and Dominique Samario, Goleta’s management analyst, are leading the city’s project to house the homeless. They presented possible solutions grouped into what is feasible over time and according to what meeting and survey participants ranked as most important. At the February 19 homelessness meeting, for instance, the 50 people in attendance thought the most important short-term goal would be a Showers of Blessings portable hygiene station in Goleta, more Safe Parking program overnight spaces, and a warming shelter over the next one to two years. Dato said about half the participants had either been homeless at one time themselves or had a family member who was.
In the three- to five-year range, attendees posited the development of tiny homes or a supervised camp spot, storage facilities, and emergency grants to provide rent or deposit assistance for people about to lose their residence. The longer-term goals, maybe up to 10 years away, was more permanent supportive housing, a permanent crisis intervention team, and an increase in affordable housing in general
Councilmember Stuart Kasdin asked if the homeless people were saying storage was important, why not make that a priority? And if safety was an issue, whose safety exactly? Was fire among those issues? Dato said the storage issue was a little complicated as the options included funding small units or using local mini-storage; also, if a day center were established, the storage might be included there.
Vyto Adomaitis, Goleta’s community services director, told the council more than 1,000 calls were made to Goleta police about homeless issues and that many of the fire department’s medical calls were for homeless individuals. Details would be in the public safety report due in April, Adomaitis said. Samario acknowledged that fire was a frequent issue among those who wrote comments, and they assumed it was a certain subset of the “safety” item.
Mayor Paula Perotte urged quicker action on the various plans, even suggesting the City Hall parking lot for overnight RV stays. She stressed that in 10 years’ times, the issue would still remain, as it’s a growing problem. To that end, the council voted on staff’s request for a standing committee that could give quicker direction to staff on aspects of the various plans. That will take the form of a resolution at the next available agenda spot, and the draft homelessness plan is set to be completed in the spring.