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Santa Barbara Council Votes to Participate in Regional Effort to Reduce Homelessness

The city seeks a more collaborative approach after a lack of business participation in its 'Real Change, Not Spare Change' alternative giving program

The Santa Barbara City Council has decided to abandon the Real Change, Not Spare Change alternative giving program, at least for now, but wants to participate in a regional approach to reducing county homelessness.

The program was designed to divert money from panhandlers to street outreach programs by having locals and visitors contribute money to countertop donation boxes at State Street businesses.

It came with a $75,000 public relations price tag for the city and drummed up a lot of attention at its launch, but it raised only about $4,000 in donations. Without support from businesses and an organization taking a leadership role, it won’t work, Mayor Helene Schneider told Noozhawk in February.

The next step, which the City Council suspended, was to build and place contribution boxes along State Street.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Santa Barbara City Council voted to be part of a fall workshop that will examine a more collaborative approach to the countywide problem of homelessness. A staff report says the city completed half of the 12 points in the plan to address homelessness, but council members said new strategies are needed to reduce the number of people living on the streets.

The proposal, brought forward by Bringing Our Community Home and county advisory committees, suggests combining all regional efforts under one coordinator and a leadership group made up of elected officials. Each jurisdiction that participates would pay a fair share into the overall costs.

Most of the county’s homeless live on the South Coast, and Santa Barbara has many of its own programs. The City Council approved a restorative policing team added into this year’s budget, made up of a full-time police officer, three outreach workers and six community service liaisons from Redevelopment Agency funds.

Schneider said that even 300 more officers wouldn’t help unless there’s a coordination of services to keep people off the streets, which is why an organized collaborative process is key.

“You can’t think that we can do it ourselves, we cannot,” she said, adding that the complex issue needs the expertise, funding and political will of a larger community.

Milpas Community Association President Alan Bleecker opposed the proposal, saying it doesn’t address a lot of the community’s concerns. Schneider said the fall workshops will help determine the goals and details of the collaboration, but Bleecker was skeptical.

He said the negative impacts of Casa Esperanza’s daily lunches on the surrounding neighborhood was the biggest concern of many stakeholders, but that hasn’t been mitigated.

He also urged the City Council to follow the Santa Monica model, which combines restorative policing with information gathering and clear policy goals.

Councilman Randy Rowse said the issue needs to be approached differently and any new model needs to have accountability. Councilman Frank Hotchkiss agreed, saying the city needs to be a center for recovery.

“We want to help people, not enable them,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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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