Preliminary figures show that Santa Barbara County volunteers counted fewer homeless people in this year’s two-day, biannual effort than in 2011.
What that means and whether those numbers show solid progress is yet to be seen, according to County Public Health Dr. David Lennon.
Lennon shared preliminary statistics on Thursday from last month’s Common Ground Santa Barbara County’s Vulnerability Index and the Point-in-Time Count during the first meeting of the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness, or C3H.
Volunteers made contact with 1,462 homeless people from Santa Maria to Santa Barbara in the early morning hours of Jan. 22-23, down from the 1,576 homeless counted in 2011.
The most homeless were counted in Santa Barbara, with 945, and in Santa Maria, with 300, Lennon said.
Other counts by area include Lompoc at 101, Isla Vista/Goleta at 81, Santa Ynez Valley at 24, Carpinteria at 10 and Guadalupe at 1.
Every area saw a drop in those counted except Santa Maria, which increased by 56 people, and the Santa Ynez Valley, where efforts were beefed up this year to find more than the six located in 2011.
Lennon, who virtually attended the meeting at the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department via web cam from Santa Maria, cautioned that the count is not complete and may include duplicates or refusals.
Because the effort is made to find out how many people are on the streets and who is most in need, Lennon shared that 117 homeless people have been helped into housing since the 2011 count.
“We are making some progress,” he said. “It’s slow progress and certainly we have more to do.”
Lennon said there is a separate database for homeless families. In January’s count, volunteers found 121 new qualifying families, for a total of 129. The total is similar to that in 2011.
“We’re seeing a lot of young families out there,” he said, noting the average age of the head of household was 37 and 53 percent of parents surveyed had children under age 6. “We’re going to try to house (them) as quickly as we can. We are helping our neighbors.”
Jeff Shaffer, C3H coordinator, and other representatives spoke on results of the efforts coordinated by Common Ground.
He said he will be following up with the logistics centers from last month’s count and rallying community action groups.
“The community is very passionate about working to solve homelessness,” Schaffer said. “The data is so important to get.”
Elected officials on the C3H council, chaired by Santa Barbara County Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, listened attentively to the figures and said they hoped to take a closer look at the next meeting in May.