Storage Shed to be converted for use by homeless community

Madison Smoak, Staff Writer

Could a transitional storage unit alleviate homeless in the Santa Barbara community?

Members of the Santa Barbara community are currently raising awareness about a potential storage unit that would store the belongings of the homeless population.

Located behind the Metropolitan Transit District’s downtown bus depot on Chapala Street, the original bicycle storage shed for commuters in Santa Barbara remains untouched and underwhelmingly used. In the time it has been open to cyclists, only a single commuter has taken advantage of the storage.

Members of the Santa Barbara community are commenting on how security for homeless people’s belongings might improve their opportunities moving forward. Additionally, the storage unit might offer a resolution to the complaints made by the public about sidewalk squatters and the malaise of the central district. 

The number of homeless people in Santa Barbara has remained fairly consistent over the past couple of years. Based off the Time-in-Point count carried out every two years for federal funding requirements, the fluid population numbers do not match the intensified visibility of belongings and camps along the streets of Santa Barbara. Meanwhile, this Point-in-Time count serves as a reminder that the best way to understand the needs of the homeless community is through actual engagement. A nonprofit, CityNet, has experienced firsthand the necessity for a storage unit by interacting with the homeless. CityNet was unable to comment at this time.

Nonetheless, those who are active with the homeless community in Santa Barbara find that people are reported to be carrying up to 90 gallons of gear. From identification, medicine, birth certificates, financial documents, family mementos, work gear, phones, hygiene products, to the very belongings needed for a night’s rest, homeless people are carrying their lives with them. Since all of these items are highly important to those on the streets, they fear the mistreatment of their items, theft, and confiscation from the city.

Furthermore, weather and contact with the police increases the fears and worries of the homeless about leaving their belongings unattended all hours of the day and night. A recent survey by the Santa Barbara Independent concluded that 21 out of the 28 homeless people interviewed would appreciate having a place to store their belongings.

This leaves the Santa Barbara public with two questions: what are the obstacles facing the storage unit proposal, and who is allowed to store their stuff assuming the storage unit proposal is implemented? Obstacles such as price, transportation, and distance affect the implementation of the storage unit.

Other communities such as San Diego have implemented storage units. San Diego Transitional Storage Center shared, “Many people in our communities overlook how difficult it is to transition off the streets when homeless people carry all their belongings with them.” The SDTSC offers readily available storage to all who are in need, whether it be getting to school, work, or doctor’s appointments. Although they receive pushback from the community, they feel that taking necessary action against chronic homeless will relieve the perpetuation of the cycle of poverty. 

Following the lead of other communities, their trial and error will aid the decisions made by the larger Santa Barbara community about the necessity and action taken for a storage unit. In the meantime, Westmont student Renee Chan suggested that although “trying to find a solution for the hundreds of homeless people living in our neighborhood is really difficult, we can at least start with a handshake or a hug and a ‘Hi, what’s your name?’”

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