COVID has aggravated many social issues, including for houseless populations. The Ninth Circuit court ruling coupled with Centers for Disease Control guidance prohibits moving houseless people unless you can store their belongings and offer them alternative places to stay. However, houseless encampments were attracting more people into Isla Vista and ultimately led to an order from the Fire Department that these encampments constituted a safety hazard, so something had to be done.
The 3rd District office explored every option for locating a temporary, six-month navigation center, and the parking lot near the Community Center was deemed by the service provider, Good Samaritan, and County Public Health to be the best location. Fortunately, the I.V. Recreation and Park District board and the I.V. Community Services District also supported this plan.
Bringing intensive services to the houseless, getting them into the dounty housing database and document-ready, stabilizing them for transfer to that next step in re-housing where their particular needs can best be met is the goal of the Pallet park navigation center. It is a pilot project, the first of its kind in the county, and I am very hopeful that it will be a model for the future. It is temporary, not permanent; it is the best site available in I.V. for this purpose; and it is already resulting in more management and more suitable placements for the houseless population it is serving.
I am very grateful to everyone who worked so hard to bring this project to fruition, including the County of Santa Barbara and Good Samaritan.