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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 9th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 44 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 44

Help our county's homeless find 'Common Ground'

BY AMY ASMAN

In several weeks, hundreds of volunteers will be waking up before the crack of dawn to go find and survey the men, women, and sometimes children who live on the streets as part of Common Ground Santa Barbara County’s bi-annual vulnerability index survey and point-in-time count.


ON A MISSION:
Local volunteers took to the streets in 2011 to interview homeless people for Common Ground Santa Barbara County’s bi-annual vulnerability survey index and point-in-time count. Another survey will be conducted on Jan. 22 and 23. People interested in volunteering can check out commongroundsb.org.
PHOTO BY NICK ST. OEGGER

Launched nationwide in 2011, the survey enables communities to gather detailed information about their most vulnerable residents—people living on the street who are often suffering from various health issues.

“It’s been proven that those living on the streets are at a far greater risk of dying at an early age,” said Rob Fredericks, co-leader of Common Ground and deputy executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara.

On Jan. 22 and 23, volunteers like Fredericks will seek out individuals living on the street to ask them in-depth questions about their health and housing needs. The information, which is confidential, will be collected, recorded, and presented in a report.

But before that can be accomplished, Common Ground needs to find volunteers.

People interested in participating must attend one of several training sessions, which are being held at locations throughout the county. There will be sessions from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 17 at Church for Life, 3120 Skyway Drive, Suite 501, in Santa Maria, and on Jan. 18 at the New Life Christian Center, 816 North C Street in Lompoc.

Fredericks said volunteers will work in groups of four and each group will have someone who has prior experience conducting the survey.

In 2011, more than 500 volunteers interviewed 1,536 people, 932 (79 percent) of which were determined to be at a high-mortality risk if they remained on the streets. Since that survey, 108 people have been housed, including 17 vulnerable families.

Fredericks recounted to the Sun the story of a woman who hadn’t slept in a bed in 23 years, and who, because of the survey, was able to find adequate housing.

“It’s just shocking,” he said of the woman’s story. “You’re definitely thinking of that when you go home and lay your head on the pillow—that you’re lucky to have a bed.”

Fredericks went on to say that caring for the homeless at hospitals and jails creates a heavy burden for taxpayers. Using the data from the survey to help house people in need will alleviate some of those costs.

 “[Homelessness] comes at a great cost for the community,” he said. “And, more importantly, it’s a moral issue; we can’t have people living on a park bench or behind a store in this cold weather or any time, really.”

For more information about volunteering for the Common Ground survey, visit commomgroundsb.org.