In an effort to streamline services for homeless people, a process that would unite several support groups in the county is headed into the home stretch after the Board of Supervisors gave its conceptual support Tuesday. As the homeless population continues to make the news — from a Grand Jury report titled “Homeless Mentally Ill Indigent Recidivism: This Is Not Good for the County” to the opening of warming shelters on cold and rainy winter nights to the massive outreach effort that counted the homeless and gave context to their needs — a merger of Bringing Our Community Home, Common Ground, and the County Homeless Advisory Committee would be the next big step toward getting the various groups that work with the homeless on the same page.
“There is much activity in our community focused on helping those without homes, yet communication among efforts is sporadic, and there is dissatisfaction regarding the net impact of these activities, which is currently unquantifiable,” explained 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr’s staffer Stephanie Langsdorf in the Board of Supervisor’s agenda letter.
Mike Foley, executive director of Casa Esperanza, said the merger was important in two ways: It holds elected officials accountable for working toward fixing the problems, and it streamlines all of the homeless services into a better system of communication and coordination, two things that will hopefully lead to better outcomes and, presumably, savings down the line. The City of Santa Barbara has already thrown its support behind the mergers. “The fiscal impacts of homelessness on our health care and criminal justice systems are huge,” Mayor Helene Schneider said in a letter.
Data has shown that in areas where there is confusion, lack of communication, and lack of political will, homelessness tends to increase. Where the opposite is true, homelessness goes down. Here, Santa Barbara County’s two biggest cities — Santa Barbara and Santa Maria — sit more than 60 miles away from each other, only increasing the need to streamline services.