Group counts homeless people in Santa Barbara County

Posted: Feb 28, 2011 10:15 PM by Nancy Chen – Source: KSBY News
Updated: Feb 28, 2011 10:15 PM

 Santa Barbara County voluneers are helping the homeless

Volunteers are hitting the streets in Santa Barbara County to count the number of homeless people and help the most vulnerable find housing; the coalition organizing it all is called “Common Ground Santa Barbara.”

It’s the largest effort of this kind in the United States so far.

Common Ground says the first move in getting people off the street is to know just what they’re dealing with and how big the issue is.

The team in Santa Maria started talking to homeless people on the streets, just as they were waking up at 5 a.m.

And when volunteers finished surveying them around 8 a.m., the team started going door to door at motels, where a lot of people without homes stay the night.

The surveys ask people about housing and medical histories in an attempt to get the most vulnerable people off the streets.

All those numbers will then be entered into a database so leaders can decide who needs what the most.

Esther Smith spoke to a volunteer this morning and says she’s homeless and on dialysis, just trying to make ends meet for her and her daughter.

“My daughter’s doing the best she can for me,” she said. “And honestly, with this weather, it was snowing the other day. Saturday. We really need shelter.”

This is all part of a national Common Ground campaign to find housing for 100,000 people nationally by July 2013.

Locally, the group wants to find housing for the 100 most vulnerable people in the county within the next year.

The group says being homeless shortens lifespans by an average of 25 years and that seven homeless people have already died so far this year in Santa Barbara County.