Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 12:22 pm | Fair 72º

 
 
 
 

Homeless Deaths Rise; County Prepares to Look at Mental Health

5th homeless death reported late Saturday as advocates step up plea for warming centers

Just three weeks into 2010, five homeless deaths have already been reported. The grim new year’s toll comes on the heels of 28 deaths among Santa Barbara’s homeless in 2009.

“It’s just unheard of,” social worker Ken Williams told Noozhawk on Sunday morning.

Williams said Sunday that another body had been found Saturday night. The homeless man was discovered under the same bridge where another homeless man, Mike, had died just hours earlier Saturday. The cause of the deaths has not been determined.

Williams reported the year’s first homeless death on Jan. 13.  A man named Greg had collapsed and died on Stearns Wharf that day, he said.

While talking with Noozhawk on Sunday, Williams was in the middle of e-mailing an appeal to public health officials to declare an emergency and open up warming centers for the homeless. A series of powerful Pacific storms has been pounding the South Coast with rain, wind and frigid temperatures.

“We need to request, beg and demand that Public Health, or the city or county — hopefully, all three — declare a state of emergency,” the e-mail said. “Warming centers need to be professionally staffed and funded by the city and county.”

A homeless Vietnam veteran was reported to have died in Isla Vista last week and Williams also confirmed the death of a woman named Christin, two blocks from Pershing Park.

“There had been reported assaults against women in that park,” said Williams, who acknowledged he didn’t know Christin’s official cause of death.

Williams said he’s walked up and down State Street several times since the beginning of the year, and noticed a larger number of homeless than usual.

“I’ve never seen so many people outside the shelters,” said Williams, adding that many seemed to be suffering from mental illness.

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will be listening to a presentation Tuesday about the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services Department, one of the agencies charged with addressing the mental health needs of the homeless.

ADMHS recently received a grade of “F” in an independent study conducted by the California External Quality Review Organization, which ranked mental health departments statewide.

The department reduced spending in 2009 by $8.4 million.

Michael Foley, executive director of the Casa Esperanza homeless shelter, 816 Cacique St., also implored city and county officials to address the needs of the homeless.

“At the Casa Esperanza homeless center this December, 43 homeless people came to the shelter for the first time and declared the need for help dealing with mental illness, compared to 27 the year before,” Foley said in an e-mail to county supervisors Friday. “The rate of suicide and suicidal ideation is on the rise. Millions of dollars are owed to the state of California due to bad billing.”

The supervisors will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Santa Maria at the Betteravia Government Center Board Hearing Room, 511 E. Lakeside Parkway.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >