Friday, August 17 , 2018, 2:31 pm | Fair 77º


Local News

County Supervisors Vote to Consolidate Homeless Services

Streamlined, collaborative plan includes the creation of a new coordinator position

The myriad groups working to address homelessness in Santa Barbara County will be working in a more streamlined way, if plans approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors go as planned.

The supervisors voted unanimously to support a new structure that would centralize homeless efforts and create a new position that would oversee and coordinate those efforts. Multiple county departments, such as the Sheriff’s Department, Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services and Public Health, all deal with those on the streets in different capacities. 

Throw in an array of nonprofits and private groups and the effort is even more fragmented, making it difficult for those on the front lines to communicate with one another.

The plan, spearheaded by Supervisor Doreen Farr, establishes a policy council of elected officials from both the North and South County who will cast a vision and an agenda.

Farr said she first started thinking about the idea when she saw how much staff time went into various homeless advisory committee meetings and the like. She said savings would also result.

“If we could get a small percentage of the transient population out of the jail, we would more than contribute what we’re putting forward here,” Farr said. “It is a leap of faith, but I think it’s very exciting.”

A coordinating committee will be made up of key leaders who will set short- and long-term goals and will oversee the day-to-day work of the new homeless coordinator.

A slew of metaphors were applied to that person Tuesday, including “cat herder” as well as a more positive “air traffic controller.” The person would work to sync up efforts of all involved and would be under the umbrella of a local nonprofit, not employed by the county.

Department heads will continue to weigh in, but the CEO Office will ensure resources are used strategically, according to Terri Maus-Nisich. assistant county executive officer

The City of Santa Barbara has committed $75,000 to the effort, and the county will commit up to $75,000. Maus-Nisich said other cities are being approached for funding as well, and the county plans to apply for grants as well as they become available.

The plan drew out almost a dozen speakers Tuesday, most of whom are influential in the homeless and housing communities and who all supported the changes.

One of those people was Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider. She said the city will be opening a detox facility this week, an effort that has involved partnership from multiple agencies.

“This merger is the bigger picture,” she said, adding that the coordinator position was key.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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