Pixel Tracker

Monday, December 10 , 2018, 5:33 am | Fair 50º


Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce Leads Talks on Tackling Panhandling

Community leaders explore solutions to the growing problem

In what could be described as a virtual powerhouse of business and governmental clout, the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce pulled together the community’s leading government, social, political and business leaders to take on the escalating problem of panhandling and street vagrancy on the South Coast.

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf started the discussion and brought with her the county’s leading department heads to discuss what is being done and to explore how the county, the city and the business community of Santa Barbara can better work together to address the escalating problem of panhandling and vagrancy.

“When Supervisor Wolf confirmed she was coming to this morning’s GRC (Government Relations Committee) meeting, everyone’s schedules suddenly opened up, allowing us to bring together some of the community’s best and brightest leaders to focus on the issues at hand,” said Michael Holliday, incoming chairman of the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce.

More than 30 minutes of presentations were given by county department heads, including Dr. Ann Detrick, director of the county Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services; Dr. Takashi Wada, director of Public Health; Delfino Neira, director of county Social Services; and David Matson, director of Housing and Community Development. Also in attendance were Santa Barbara City Administrator Jim Armstrong and newly appointed City Council member Randy Rowse.

Local business leaders for the chamber as well as members of the Downtown Organization, the Greater Santa Barbara Lodging & Restaurant Association, and the Conference and Visitors Bureau and Film Commission were given the opportunity to ask pointed questions.

The primary query posed was how county and city government and business leaders can work together to address what seems to be an escalating problem of panhandling and vagrancy. Supervisor Wolf offered to help lead the way in exploring opportunities to better work together and integrate services and resources. The focus of the effort is to promote the local regional economy and to support local business needs while helping people in need get the help they need to get them off the street and integrated back into a normal productive lifestyle.

“Nobody is going to feel compassion for the panhandlers or homeless until they feel safe,” said Steve Amerikaner, adding that the city and the county should develop a first response system to address the concern for safety. The concept would involve a South Coast reporting system with which if anyone has a concern regarding aggressive panhandling or vagrancy, they have one phone number to call to get someone dispatched to help a person in need who is not necessarily a police officer or firefighter.

Members of the Downtown Organization mentioned their “Real Change, Not Spare Change” program, which is designed to help people in need in the community while not promoting the root causes of panhandling and vagrancy.

The GRC meeting was the second of what the chamber will host in the months ahead to allow civic, business and government leaders a forum to explore ways to work together to come up with simple, effective, measurable means to address what most attendees see as a growing problem in our city and county.

The overall goal of this effort is that with a concentrated, focused and integrated county/city program that existing funds can be combined with new sources of business support funds to develop an effective means of dealing with workable solutions that benefit the community economy and businesses and also support individuals in need while removing incentives for chronic panhandling and vagrancy in the community.

— Renee Johnson represents the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce.

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
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 >

Meet Your Realtor Sponsored by Village Properties

Photo of John Sener
John Sener
"I am known for tenacity, diligence, honesty, and sound decision making with the ultimate goal of closing every transaction to the satisfaction of all involved parties."

Full Profile >