Establish a day center, increase the supply of affordable housing and conduct periodic encampment cleanups while connecting residents with services are among possible solutions outlined in a 10-year draft plan to help tackle homelessness in Goleta.
The city’s first-ever comprehensive homelessness strategic plan is available for a 30-day public comment period before the Goleta City Council considers adoption.
The end goal is to provide direction and clarity around needs, service gaps and priorities to make strategic and effective funding decisions that serve the homeless population as well as people at risk of becoming homeless, according to Goleta community relations assistant Jaime Shaw.
The 85-page plan will guide and coordinate efforts to prevent and address homelessness within Goleta, and it will help the city prioritize its efforts related to homelessness on a regional level, Shaw said.
Community members can provide public comment on the draft homelessness strategic plan by Dec. 14. Comments by the public can be emailed to Claudia Dato, senior project manager for Goleta, at [email protected] or mailed to the City of Goleta, Attention: Claudia Dato, 130 Cremona Drive, Suite B, Goleta, CA 93117.
Scroll down to view Goleta’s draft homelessness strategic plan.
“We are pleased to be able to share the draft homelessness strategic plan with the public,” Vyto Adomaitis, director of Goleta Neighborhood Services and Public Safety, said in a statement. “City staff has been working diligently on this plan, they have collaborated with multiple local agencies, and sought out public input through workshops and a community survey.”
The staff aims to present the draft plan to the Goleta City Council for review and comment in spring 2021, according to city officials, and to present a final homelessness strategic plan by the summer months in 2021.
The planning process began in 2019 with data gathering, stakeholder meetings and a community survey directly distributed to hear from those with input on homelessness in the area.
City staff received input from more than 475 residents, businesses, service providers and people who are or who have experienced homelessness. Nearly 75% of respondents said homelessness is one of the most critical issues within Goleta, according to the community-based survey.
The majority of survey respondents are supportive of case management and outreach efforts, as well as job training, additional safe parking spaces for people living in vehicles, transitional housing and a warming center, according to the preliminary plan.
Since 2004, a safe parking program has been providing overnight parking in confidential, daily-monitored lots, including access to portable toilets, food, employment assistance and other resources, to Santa Barbara County’s unsheltered population. The program is designed to connect people to services that help get them off the streets and into safer living environments.
Securing additional spaces for the safe parking program is a goal in the draft homelessness strategic plan, among several other objectives.
Findings show that local law enforcement logged about 1,000 calls for service annually in Goleta that involve a “transient” individual or person experiencing homelessness, according to the city’s strategic plan.
Goleta staff also held stakeholder meetings, best practice discussions with communities nationwide and offered a community information session. Community involvement has been essential since the beginning, most of which occurred before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Shaw.
In mid-September, the Goleta City Council reviewed the draft homelessness strategic plan and provided direction to city staff to incorporate some additional information before releasing the draft for further public review.
Staff had shared the draft plan with the city’s newly formed homelessness issues standing committee in July. The committee reviewed the draft plan and provided input on the goals, objectives and timeline for homelessness efforts in Goleta.
Data from the annual federally mandated Point in Time count found 1,897 homeless people in Santa Barbara County, a 5% increase compared with the 2019 tally. Results showed there were more than 1,220 “unsheltered” people in the county and about 674 individuals living in emergency shelters or transitional housing, according to the numbers released in March.
The Point in Time count is a mandatory census that aims to help communities estimate how many people are affected by homelessness on any given night within Santa Barbara County.
The total count for Goleta has risen from 99 people in 2017 to 119 in 2019 and 166 in 2020, and the number of people living in vehicles has more than doubled during this time, according to the city’s homelessness strategic plan.
The overall number of people experiencing homelessness jumped 39% from 2019 to 2020.
The 2020 homeless count found that 51% of people live in cars across the county, while in Goleta the number was much higher — at 68%.
The draft homelessness strategic plan notes that few homeless services exist within the city limits of Goleta and funds have been limited to date.
Several providers of homeless services are located in Santa Barbara or other areas of the county, according to Goleta’s blueprint to address homelessness.
“Given the complex nature of the challenges of homelessness, a coordinated, integrated effort is needed,” the draft homelessness strategic plan states. “The challenge is bigger than any single public or private entity acting on its own can surmount.”