Goleta’s draft Homelessness Strategic Plan is available for public comment and is dedicated to three homeless people — among them Leland “Hobo” Goodsell, pictured here with his dog Dreamer — who died while the document was being written. | Credit: Courtesy

The borders of the City of Goleta contain its share of people without a home, a number that has leapt to 166 in 2020 from 99 in 2017, the first year a homeless survey separated Goleta’s homeless population from Isla Vista’s. It’s a group many residents know personally, and the city’s newly released draft Homelessness Strategic Plan is dedicated to three who died while it was being prepared: Angela Karmas, Leland “Hobo” Goodsell, and Kona Cummings.

The city notes a large number of its homeless residents — 68 percent, or 117 individuals — live in their cars, a fact that informs the city’s plan to attempt to keep people housed, secure, and in touch with needed and available services. As well, about 37 percent were noted to have a chronic health issue, 34 percent have a brain injury or mental-health problem, 31 percent are physically disabled, and 26 percent have a substance-abuse problem.

Roughly 50 homeless people participated in a survey that found 83 percent were Goleta residents, and 56 percent had lived in Goleta for more than five years. Twenty-eight percent said they lived in Goleta when they became homeless, 22 percent had lived in the City of Santa Barbara, and 38 percent had lived outside the county.

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For Santa Barbara County overall, 2020 has seen a surge of homelessness according to the Point-in-Time Count, which is conducted in January. Compared to 2019, 45 percent more people suffered chronic homelessness, people living in their vehicles increased by 31 percent, and the number of veterans went up by 83 percent. Similar to Goleta’s increase in homelessness during the past few years, the homeless population in the county was 1,489 in 2017 and 1,897 in 2020.

Goleta itself has few homeless services: the Showers of Blessing and meal program, for instance, and some lots in the Safe Parking program. As well, it funded two beds a night at the PATH Santa Barbara shelter, though people responded that they didn’t like to leave Goleta to sleep in the nearby city.

Among the goals outlined in the plan to reduce homelessness is to add emergency grants for rental or deposit assistance to keep people in their homes, and support for programs that inform tenants of their rights and offer mediation with landlords. On the clinical services side, the city plans to advocate with the county for permanent co-response teams that pair a mental-health professional with a law-enforcement officer, add public restrooms with showers, get more spaces for the Safe Parking Program, and create day and warming centers in the city. Cleaning up homeless encampments is on the list, as well as storage places for belongings and public trash cans. Costs for the programs are outlined in the draft plan, as are potential grant funding sources.

The draft document goes to City Council after the public has weighed in. The due date for comments is December 14, and they go to Claudia Dato at cdato@cityofgoleta.org, or by mail to City of Goleta, Attention: Claudia Dato, 130 Cremona Drive, Suite B, Goleta, CA 93117. The plan can be found at tinyurl.com/GoletaHomelessnessPlan.

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