Homeless survey seeks volunteers

More volunteers are being sought for a community effort to survey the homeless of Santa Barbara County next week.

According to the count organizers, Common Ground Santa Barbara, more than 290 volunteers have signed and more are needed to reach the 500-volunteer goal, with shortages particularly in North County communities like Lompoc, Santa Maria and Santa Ynez.

The survey, which will begin Monday, is an attempt to not only count every homeless individual in the county, but also photograph them and learn at least a little about them.

Volunteers will gather data on where the homeless come from, what factors contributed to them becoming homeless, and what their current mental and physical health might be.

“For us to have good policy we need to have good facts,” said Mike Foley, a director of the Santa Barbara homeless shelter Casa Esperanza, and one of the Common Ground Santa Barbara organizers. “This is the first step to getting the most vulnerable people off of our streets and into a home instead of dying.”

For the Lompoc area, as of Thursday there were 20 volunteers  signed up.

“We would really like to see about 40. That would let us get it done much sooner,” said Pat Brady from the Good Samaritan organization’s Lompoc facility.

Volunteers must sign up at the Common Ground website before Sunday, when training sessions will be held in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Lompoc. Those volunteers will then be able to assist in the survey efforts beginning in the early morning hours of Monday, with possible follow-up hours Tuesday and Wednesday.

Foley said there were other ways, besides early morning survey work, to help the Common Ground effort.

“For example, we’re going to need some folks with good computer skills to upload photos to our database,” said Foley.

Common Ground’s survey week will end with a community briefing about the survey results on Friday.