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(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.) – Governor Gavin Newsom announced on June 14, 2023, that Santa Barbara County has been awarded a significant grant of $6 million to tackle the pressing issue of unsheltered homelessness in the region. This grant aims to link individuals currently residing in encampments near dangerous state right of ways and heavily impacted waterways to crucial services and establish pathways to both interim and permanent housing.

Santa Barbara County’s selected sites include the Santa Maria riverbed between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, where collaboration with Caltrans and San Luis Obispo County will address homelessness among a transient population between the City of Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County and more rural areas in San Luis Obispo County. Additionally, the Santa Ynez riverbed in Lompoc and Solvang, which runs under a Caltrans right of way, presents an opportunity to address long-standing homelessness issues in this area. The grant also targets homeless encampments near creek systems leading to beaches in South Santa Barbara County, including Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland, Carpinteria, and unincorporated areas, where hazardous environmental impacts have been documented.

Lucille Boss, Encampment Response Coordinator, expressed the urgency of addressing unsheltered homelessness, stating, “The impacts of this year’s storms demonstrated that unsheltered homelessness is always unsafe, unhealthy, and must be addressed with urgency. This grant, a collaborative effort with San Luis Obispo County, Caltrans, and cities throughout Santa Barbara County will link people currently in encampments with a pathway to interim and permanent housing.”

The grant encompasses various crucial components, including funding for a specialized outreach team projected to serve approximately 250 individuals.  This team will provide in-field case management to encourage people to accept available and planned interim housing and permanent housing.  The outreach will begin this summer.  Interim housing projects and permanent housing projects near prioritized areas are already under development.  Outreach teams will meet acute needs in the field and link unsheltered persons to long-term supportive services to ensure their retention in housing placements, working to connect individuals to services that meet their unique needs, such as street outreach case managers, housing navigators, mental health practitioners, certified substance use disorder specialists, medical coordinators, and community support programs. This funding source does not include clean-up/removal nor environmental rehabilitation/restoration; it is focused on housing and services to engage people and provide pathways from unsheltered homelessness to interim and permanent housing.

To ensure the success of this initiative, Santa Barbara County has garnered significant support. The grant application included letters of support from Caltrans, Assemblymember Gregg Hart, Senator Monique Limón, the County of San Luis Obispo, and cities such as Santa Maria, Lompoc, Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Carpinteria. These partner jurisdictions have committed to leveraging existing street outreach teams, collaborating with short-term non-congregate scattered sites, establishing linkages with landlords, and partnering with environmental groups.

The County of Santa Barbara has been proactive in this effort for the last several years. The Board of Supervisors on August 31, 2021, approved a 3-year (2021-2024) Encampment Resolution Strategy and Encampment Response Protocol with a goal of resolving encampments of varying size and impact.  This strategy and protocol were used to apply for this competitive grant funding.

The awarded grant is part of the Encampment Resolution Fund (ERF), an initiative spearheaded by Governor Newsom and the Legislature.  Governor Newsom’s administration has proposed providing $750 million to support 10,000 individuals living in precarious conditions on California’s streets.


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