Are projects Roomkey and Homekey helping Lompoc’s homeless?

On Nov. 19, 2021, the Santa Barbra County grand jury issued a report titled, “The keys to housing the homeless.” In it the members of the jury make several observations/recommendations concerning the implementation of two programs to help communities manage their homeless populations: Project Roomkey and Project Homekey.

Summarizing their findings, the grand jury said, “The county has found it difficult to duplicate its successes with Projects Roomkey and Homekey. There is a discouraging lack of available property in the county, and property owners are reluctant to turn over what they have for the purpose of housing the homeless. Nor are there identified local funds to sustain the two programs without additional state and federal grant allocations.”

I don’t find it surprising that “property owners are reluctant to turn over what they have for the purpose of housing the homeless”; experiences in many jurisdictions indicate that the homeless folks currently housed in these units have little respect for the places provided for them. 

A local television news report several months ago (“Homeless hotel plan ends for those in fire prone areas of Santa Barbara,” KEYT Feb. 3, 2022), concerning the end of the city of Santa Barbara’s leasing of a motel to temporarily house homeless, showed the property owners tossing all the furniture from the rooms into a dumpster, and they had to totally renovate the facility. This was after the homeless left the premises, and in other cities they literally destroyed the places that were provided for them.

Although well more than 100 rooms (beds) have been provided, it hasn’t proved adequate to handle the nearly 2,000 homeless that were found during the 2021 Point in Time Count. One of the cities identified in the county grand jury report that was required to respond to four specific recommendations was the city of Lompoc.

The first finding was that Lompoc needed to establish a program to provide “appropriate services, for vulnerable elderly homeless with underlying health conditions.” The city’s response was that city representatives attended meetings.

The second finding urged “city councils within the county to develop a roster of hotels and motels willing to participate in a Roomkey-type program.” The city’s response was that they attended meetings “where Lompoc provided available sites.” If the city did supply such a list, shouldn’t it be a public document so neighbors will know that these sites are under consideration?

Third was that “all city councils within the county identify possible Homekey sites including government owned properties.” The city’s response was that they prepared a Community Action Plan (CAP) in 2021. 

As stated in the CAP 2021: “The program will assist with the safe opening of Lompoc facilities and programs. The program will allow for public accessed capital and program improvements to facilities such as City Hall, Anderson Recreation Center, the Dick DeWees Community Senior Center, and programs for human services. Improvements are identified as, but not limited to, the removal of structures to allow for distancing, installation of “no touch” fixtures and devices for information, sneeze and cough guards, sanitization stations, and purchase of computer software for safe business practices to deter the contraction of the coronavirus.” 

The CAP 2021 plan was to provide safe public access to government facilities, not to provide housing locations in government buildings for the homeless.

Lastly, the final grand jury finding recommended “all city councils within the county develop and implement a plan for funding Roomkey and Homekey-type programs.” The city’s response was that they were participating in a plan led by the county. They also provided about a half-million in funding to address the issue.

Lompoc responded to the grand jury report in February 2022. To summarize, Lompoc participated in meetings. But meetings and unrelated plans that don’t address the issue don’t solve problems. They are only perpetual make-work, feel-good exercises that give the appearance that something is being done.

Fixing a problem that has been allowed to mutate unabated for well more than two decades by enabling many people to seemingly “drop out” of a structured environment and “live free” will take more than meetings. The county with your tax dollars currently supports ongoing “services”; the cost per each individual provided these services is $60,000 per year.

Convincing the homeless that they should contribute to society instead of waiting for the next freebie isn’t going to be easy, especially when millions of dollars are being tossed their way in the form of Electronic Benefits Transfer cards, free rooms, free meals, and tax-free cash handouts they can get on the streets. Thousands of jobs are waiting for workers, but most of the “unhoused” prefer the easy road. Speaking from experience, there is no easy road; you must apply yourself to succeed.

Has there been any progress since February 2022? 

While some services have improved, the number of homeless people on the streets seems about the same, and there has been little progress in getting them out of their makeshift camps and old “campers” and into some sort of structured environment.

So, I guess more meetings might solve the problem.

Ron Fink writes to the Sun from Lompoc. Send a letter for publication to [email protected].

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment