Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 3
Common Ground data reveals county's most vulnerable
BY AMY ASMAN
The bottom line is there are too many people who are homeless in our communities.
That was the overall message from officials at a press conference held March 25 at Santa Maria City Hall to announce the results of the Common Ground vulnerability index survey conducted earlier this year.
On Jan. 22 and 23, more than 600 volunteers canvassed neighborhoods throughout the county to find and survey people living on the streets.
“We had more volunteers in our county than anywhere else in the country,” said Angela Antenore, facilitator of the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness (C3H).
The data collected during the survey, Antenore said, helps paint a better portrait of “the diverse face of people who are homeless” in the community and gives advocates a better understanding of their complex needs.
According to the data, volunteers encountered 1,466 people during the survey, of which 1,111 agreed to participate. From that number, 886 were determined “vulnerable” with an elevated risk of premature death.
Most of the people surveyed are living on the streets, in cars, or in shelters in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria. Approximately 68 percent are male and 32 percent are female; 14 percent are veterans; 10 percent are younger than 25; and 9 percent are considered elderly.
“The oldest person surveyed was 84 years old—84 years old and living on the streets. That’s just not right,” said Rob Fredericks, co-leader of Common Ground and deputy executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara.
Additionally, 14 percent of those surveyed said they spent time in foster care; 30 percent reported being the victim of a violent crime; and 72 percent said they’ve spent time in jail.
More than two thirds of the people surveyed said they became homeless due to the failing economy, job loss, or health problems.
The data also revealed that many people suffer from a serious health condition, such as symptoms from alcohol or drug abuse, mental illness, heart disease, chronic pain, or hepatitis.
Nearly half of those surveyed don’t have health insurance and either choose not to seek treatment or go to clinics, hospitals, or emergency rooms.
As a result, taxpayers footed the bill for close to $5 million worth of emergency room and hospitalization fees in the past year. Overall incarceration costs amounted to approximately $13.3 million, according to the state Department of Corrections.
“If we could just change those costs to housing people, we’d do a lot better in our community,” Fredericks said.
Members of C3H are using this data and the data collected in 2011 to create a 100-day plan to determine the best ways to meet the needs of the homeless. Antenore said that plan is expected to launch in April.
In the meantime, C3H is in constant need of volunteers to help reach out to people living on the streets. Anyone interested in volunteering can e-mail Jeff Shaffer at C3HJeff@gmail.com.
For more information, including a full version of the 2013 data report, visit commongroundsb.com.