The homeless population in Santa Barbara County has grown 3.4% since 2020, with increases seen in Santa Maria, Lompoc and unincorporated areas by volunteers who conducted the spot count of homeless people. -shelter on February 23.
In the 2020 count, homeless residents numbered 1,897, but that number rose to 1,962 in the 2022 count, according to statistics released by the county’s Housing and Community Development Division.
2022 figures were compared to 2020 as no counts were made in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although authorities last year estimated the number of homeless at 2,195 .
However, the increase underscored the need to provide more housing for the homeless, officials said.
“The point count identified the continued need to allocate resources and for the community to best meet the needs of our homeless neighbors,” said Sylvia Barnard, chair of the Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County Continuum of Care, who conducted the investigation.
The count comes almost exactly one year after the county board of supervisors approved the second phase of the community action plan to tackle homelessness, which included a detailed work plan for the implementation of its strategies.
But paying for it was another matter. Fourth District Supervisor Bob Nelson, who was then chairman of the board, said he estimated the cost of the entire work plan at about $1 billion.
But in approving the second phase, the council also asked staff to come up with a plan to build homeless shelters on county-owned property, which could speed up the process and cut costs.
Last December, the county’s grand jury released a report on the county’s efforts to end homelessness that focused on greater use of two state programs – Roomkey and Homekey, which provide temporary housing respectively. and permanent.
The council’s February response to the report said four of the grand jury’s six recommendations had already been implemented, and at that time, 1st District Supervisor Das Williams said the county was making progress in tackling homelessness.
“This level of progress – for the first time I’ve seen in the fight against homelessness in a few decades is worth trying – it’s the fastest, most momentum I’ve ever had. seen,” he said.
This year’s tally found that 40% of the county’s homeless live in North County, where the homeless population grew more than 19% in Santa Maria, from 382 in 2020 to 457 in 2022. , and just over 37% in Lompoc, going from 211 in 2020 to 290 in 2022.
Although the numbers are low, Santa Ynez Valley saw a large percentage increase, while Guadalupe saw a significant percentage decrease.
The number of homeless people in the Santa Ynez Valley fell from two in 2020 to 12 in 2022, a 500% increase, while the number of homeless fell from three to two in Guadalupe, a drop by 33%.
In unincorporated areas of the county, the number of homeless residents counted this year was 155, while the number counted in 2020 was 111, an increase of nearly 40%.
In communities on the south coast, the total number of homeless people fell by about 12%, from 1,188 in 2020 to 1,046 in 2022. But in Isla Vista, more people were living in cars, pushing the total from 69 in 2020 to 112 in 2020. 2022, an increase of just over 62%.
The Continuum of Care and County Housing and Community Development Division recruited more than 500 volunteers to help with this year’s spot count, including some 400 who showed up at 5:30 a.m. on November 23 to deploy to 89 areas census. to search for homeless individuals and families.
The volunteers used the same geographic coverage method, considered national best practice, as they did in 2019 and 2020 to provide a meaningful comparison of numbers.
However, temperatures on the night of the count fell below 40 degrees and rain fell in some places, which may have affected the totals.
Outreach workers and volunteers have reported difficulty locating homeless people in areas they frequently inhabit.
Volunteers canvassing neighborhoods used a Simtech Solutions mobile app to send real-time data to logistics centers.
Data obtained from the Point Count will be used to help direct money and projects to areas where they are most needed and will also be incorporated into funding requests to help the homeless.