Goleta continues to tackle homelessness in light of encampment fires

Wesley Brown, Staff Writer

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Last Wednesday, Goleta city stakeholders met at council chambers to address the city’s homeless problem and discuss strategies to face the issue. The meeting preceded an open house this last Monday, when community members shared input and perspectives on the issue.

Goleta has shown a propensity for contributing in efforts against homelessness. This year, the city will donate over $100,000 and donate a portion of its community development block grant to battle homelessness. Much of this support came from partnerships with organizations including: Freedom Warming Centers, Showers of Blessing, City of Santa Barbara Rental Housing Mediation Program, United Way of Northern Santa Barbara County, New Beginnings Counseling Center Safe Parking Program, People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), Peoples’ Self-Help Housing, and Transition House.

Despite this history of comprehensive financial aid, Goleta has lacked a definitive strategy to deal with homelessness. These discussions began to raise awareness and create a fully laid out plan. The city council believes that these steps will provide clarity in the coming months for how they will assist those who require assistance.

Kelly Cooper of Goleta stated, “Really, we know there’s more that we can do … How do we spend funding efficiently to help people experiencing homeless, instead of throwing dollars here or there and help here or there. This will actually be a plan that will be in place.”

According to mayor Paula Perotte, “Addressing the issue of homelessness has been an important priority for the city for a long time … the Homelessness Strategic Plan is an opportunity to enhance and focus the work the city is already doing and will be used as a roadmap to help the council prioritize and guide funding efforts in the area of homelessness.”

This public response lies in the wake of fires caused in homeless encampments. Although the fires near Highway 101 between Los Carneros and Fairview were extinguished last Monday, the fires by these encampments remain potential threats. According to Goleta’s Kelly Hoover, “it puts the people that live there in danger, the surrounding community and also the first responders.”

Goleta’s response historically has been to clear out these encampments along with other organizations. Hoover states, “It’s really going on all the time, everywhere … in the city of Goleta and throughout our region … it’s done with heart, because we understand that there’s people experiencing homelessness and that need help and resources.”

The strategies responding to these problems are set to be established within the next year.