Saturday, October 24, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 34

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 23rd, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 30 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 30

Solvang responds to grand jury report of homelessness in Santa Barbara County

By Karen Garcia

The 2019-20 Santa Barbara County grand jury recently released a report focused on homelessness in Santa Barbara County, which states that the county is in the midst of a homeless crisis that predates the challenges of the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

The City of Solvang responds to the 2019-20 Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report despite its lack of a homeless issue within the community.

“People are roaming the streets with no home of their own, and there is an increase of people living in their cars, camping in parks, or sleeping on the sofas of friends and relatives,” the report states. 

The grand jury asked the cities of Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria, Solvang, Buellton, Lompoc, Guadalupe, and Carpinteria to respond to the report, which Solvang voted to do at its Sept. 14 City Council meeting.

Most of the grand jury’s research and interviews were completed before the full onset of COVID-19 locally, therefore the jury couldn’t assess the virus’s full impact on homelessness within the county. The jury cited a lack of both affordable and permanent supportive housing, day centers, and current shelters, which are already at capacity. 

“Despite the hard work and dedication of local charities and government workers, homeless rates are increasing. Stronger leadership at the city and county levels, a consistent source of funding and community support are required to help alleviate the human suffering caused by this situation,” the report states.

The recent 2020 Santa Barbara County Point-in-Time Count reported 1,897 homeless individuals in the county. That’s an increase from the 2019 Point-in-Time Count, which identified 1,803 homeless individuals in the county. The latest survey found that of the total individuals experiencing homelessness, 674 persons live in emergency shelters or transitional housing and 1,223 people live in unsheltered conditions—an increase of approximately 31 percent compared to 2019. 

According to the 2019 Point-In-Time Homeless Count report, only five homeless individuals were identified in the Santa Ynez Vallley—an area that includes Solvang. 

In response to the recommendations made by the grand jury, Solvang City Manager Xenia Bradford said the city will include funding toward homelessness issues in future budgets starting with 2021-22 and is open to working with the county and other jurisdictions to make plans on ways to build permanent and supportive housing. 

The jury recommended that city councils designate and facilitate the building of housing for the homeless on sites within their jurisdiction, however Solvang declined to implement the recommendation.

Bradford explained that the city has a minimal homeless population so it would instead focus on producing housing to meet state requirements and ensure the city’s homeless population doesn’t increase. 

Bradford acknowledged that the city of Solvang doesn’t have a large population of homeless individuals but the report requests that all cities within Santa Barbara County work in collaboration with the county to create strategies that can be implemented countywide. 

The city has a deadline of June 30, 2021, to implement a working partnership with other districts and health care insurers to create overnight emergency shelters and day centers where there is a need. 

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