Santa Barbara & Goleta Local News

Countywide Homelessness Collaborative Granted Reprieve

Common Ground Santa Barbara still faces a tight deadline to train and recruit the several hundred local volunteers needed to conduct the Vulnerability Index Survey

By Katrina Sill | Published on 01.17.2011

On Friday, local government, nonprofit, business and faith communities won an 11th-hour battle for a 30-day federal deadline extension that will allow for the first step in an ambitious campaign to house the most vulnerable of those living on the streets in Santa Barbara County.

Each year, Santa Barbara County is required to report to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development the total number of homeless people living in the county. On Feb. 28, the newly formed collaborative Common Ground Santa Barbara will introduce a new survey that complies with HUD requirements while also collecting meaningful data that will, for the first time, directly help save lives.

Common Ground Santa Barbara is a collaborative effort of community members from the nonprofit, governmental, business and faith communities of Santa Barbara County striving to end homelessness.

County Supervisor Doreen Farr and Rep. Lois Capps, Santa Barbara, were instrumental in advocating for the waiver requested by the county’sHousing and Community Development Department when it appeared that HUD was likely to decline the request.

“Our elected leaders are representing a truly community-driven goal, through their efforts to ensure this urgent change at the highest level of housing policy,” said Rob Fredericks, volunteer co-leader of the Common Ground Santa Barbara South County team and deputy executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara.

“Now our community can proceed with the planning and hard work to prepare for registry week, and as we endeavor to move folks into housing with necessary services in place, in the weeks and months following registry week,” Fredericks said.

Common Ground Santa Barbara is working alongside the national Common Ground nonprofit organization as part of its “100,000 Homes” campaign. During the week of Feb. 28 to March 4, community volunteers and dedicated experts will use Common Ground’s Vulnerability Index to survey people experiencing street homelessness throughout Santa Barbara County to identify and prioritize those who are at the greatest risk of premature death on the streets.

This prioritization will target limited existing housing resources to those most in need, thereby saving lives and impacting the community through an immediate visible reduction in street homelessness and use of high cost emergency services.

While still a tight deadline, the extension of registry week until Feb. 28 will give Common Ground Santa Barbara time to recruit and train the several hundred local volunteers needed to conduct the Vulnerability Index Survey. The training is scheduled for Feb. 27, and starting Monday, Feb. 28, volunteers will visit all known homeless camps over three days, between 4:30 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Call for Volunteers

To volunteer in South County or to follow the Common Ground efforts, click here to join the Common Ground Santa Barbara Registry Week Facebook group, or click here.

The training is designed for volunteers ranging from those with no prior experience in this area to those with extensive experience. Individuals, groups and businesses can also support the campaign with financial contributions that will be used to purchase restaurant and grocery store gift cards for meals for those in need during the survey.

An informational meeting for North County communities will be held at 3:30 p.m. this Tuesday at the Good Samaritan Shelter at 731 S. Lincoln St. in Santa Maria.

The first working meeting of the Common Ground Santa Barbara South County subcommittees took place Jan. 11 to plan for the complex challenge of finding and surveying every homeless citizen during registry week, and the coordination of services needed to quickly house with supportive services those at the greatest risk. The South County team is responsible for the survey and coordination covering Carpinteria through Goleta.

— Katrina Sill is a publicist.