Connecting homeless to housing

Deborah Brasket The Forward View | Posted: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 12:00 am |

If you’ve ever walked by a homeless person and thought you couldn’t do anything to help, think again.

As many as 500 volunteers are needed in Santa Barbara County at the end of this month to survey homeless individuals and families, to help connect them with services and housing.

The Point in Time and Vulnerability Index survey is part of the 100,000 Homes Campaign coordinated by the National Common Ground nonprofit organization to find permanent homes for the estimated 110,000 people nationwide who are chronically homeless — living on the streets or in shelters for a year or more.

The survey identifies by name, photograph and background who the homeless are, to personalize the issue and to match them to available resources. For instance, a veteran could be linked to services and housing that are available to veterans.

This will be the first time families and not just individuals will be given the survey.

About 6,300 people experience homelessness at some time during the year in the county, according to Common Ground Santa Barbara, which is coordinating the county survey, along with several local organizations.

As many as 4,000 are homeless on any one night. About 10 to

15 percent, or as many as 945 people, are chronically homeless. Many are families with children.

Homeless persons are three to four times more likely to die prematurely than the general population. An average of 25 years is cut off a homeless person’s life.

Exposure to the elements often leads to emergency hospitalizations. Law enforcement steps in when necessary. Multiple community resources go into dealing with homeless persons, but they often don’t offer a long-term solution.

Yet many of those on the streets can be placed in permanent housing. It takes vision and creative effort. Nearly 70 communities are participating in finding 100,000 homes for the most vulnerable by July 2013.

The 100,000 Homes Campaign officially launched July 12, 2010, during the opening plenary of the National Alliance to End Homelessness conference in Washington, D.C. It built on efforts by Common Ground in 2003, when it piloted its street-to-home method in New York City.

The number of homeless in Times Square decreased by

87 percent from 2005 to 2007, from 55 individuals down to seven. As of July 2010, there was only one homeless individual still sleeping there.

Other communities took notice and began their own efforts, including Los Angeles, Denver, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C. In Los Angeles, 49 individuals were housed, and 88 percent retained their housing a year later.

Nationwide, 7,203 persons have been housed since this campaign began.

Training for volunteers will be on Sunday, followed by surveys in teams on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Volunteers are also needed to input the data. If you are able to help, please visit the website at www.common and click on the Volunteer page to sign up.

Deborah Brasket is executive director of  Santa Barbara County Action Network. “The Forward View” is a progressive look at local issues that runs every Wednesday.  For information, call 736-1897 or e-mail at:

Posted in Opinion on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 12:00 am