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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on November 17th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 38 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 38

Santa Barbara County embarks on new challenge to reduce homelessness

By Malea Martin

Santa Barbara County wants to house 75 homeless veterans by the end of January after successfully housing more than 50 young people over the last few months. 

If successful, the 100-Day Challenge to Reduce Homelessness Among Veterans would get about half of the county’s current homeless veteran population off the streets. Led by the Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County Continuum of Care, the challenge is part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 100-Day Challenge Initiative to address homelessness across California.

Lucille Boss, housing programs specialist with the county, told the Sun that her team will build off the successes and lessons from the previous challenge to reduce youth homelessness. The team surpassed its first challenge goal by housing 52 youth.

“We thought the timing would be interesting and motivating, especially around Veterans Day and knowing that we weren’t doing the traditional Veterans Day Stand Down, so we thought it would be a nice way to kind of pick up that momentum,” Boss said.

The annual Stand Down event, during which county veterans gather and receive supportive resources, was canceled this year due to the pandemic and replaced with a drive-through event. The Stand Down Homeless Veterans Assistance Project is now one of more than a dozen stakeholders involved with the 100-Day Challenge, which also includes the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara, and local veterans.

In the past, the county has struggled to find landlords that will accept Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers, “and we also weren’t getting veterans referred quickly enough,” Boss said.

“We recognized we needed the VA and HUD [Housing and Urban Development] to really step up and increase their staffing and availability to make sure that veterans were getting referred to the program, so that we could get them into housing using their available vouchers,” Boss said.

To address the issue, Boss said, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) testified before the VA on behalf of the county.

“Now we have a really strong partnership with the VA,” Boss said. “I think he really went above and beyond in that way.”

Thanks to Carbajal, the VA now participates in meetings multiple times a month with the county to discuss veterans in need on a case-by-case basis and figure out the best solutions for each individual. 

As a veteran and member of the Congressional Veterans Caucus, Carbajal said, “I laud Santa Barbara County for taking on that [100-Day] Challenge.”

“Hopefully they’re able to maximize the general resources through CDBG [community development block grant] housing, veteran vouchers, all the funding that the federal government has provided to partner with local governments,” Carbajal said. “This is one of those things where it’s a state, local, and federal collaboration that really makes it all work.”

The challenge will run until the end of January, Boss said. 










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