Pixel Tracker

Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 10:34 am | Partly Cloudy 61º


Hundreds of Volunteers Needed for Vulnerability Surveys of Homeless

Common Ground Santa Barbara seeks the public's help in gathering data about those living on the county's streets

One of Santa Barbara County’s best tools for combating homelessness is gearing up to hit the streets again this January, and organizers are looking for about 500 volunteers to make it happen.

Common Ground Santa Barbara is asking the public to help administer vulnerability surveys to people living on the street. It’s the biggest effort to gather data about the county’s homeless population to date, and seeks to find out how to best connect homeless people with services to get them into housing.

In January, they’ll be doing a point-in-time count to find out how many people are experiencing homelessness countywide while also doing a vulnerability index that determines which people are most needy, based on age and physical and mental health.

“It’s going to give us needed facts to see what we’re dealing with in each geographic city and what resources do we have,” said Jeff Shaffer, organizer with Common Ground as well as coordinator with the Central Coast Collaboration on Homelessness, or C3H.

The first vulnerability survey was conducted in 2011, and the group has seen enormous success since then. Shaffer said they’ve been able to arrange 68 housing placements, moving 106 people into housing, including individuals and families.

The survey also yielded some surprising findings. Among them were that the surveys found that almost half of all homeless people surveyed reported they lived in Santa Barbara County before being homeless.

“That was surprising,” Shaffer said. “There were a lot of people with opinions about it, but I don’t think we knew.”

Santa Barbara County was also one of the first places to incorporate the family vulnerability index, which looked at how families ended up on the street, and how they could be best helped.

In addition to his work with Common Ground, Shaffer is also working as the newly implemented C3H coordinator, a position funded by sources such as the county and city of Santa Barbara and that works to make sure all of the efforts to target homelessness in the county are working together effectively.

Shaffer told Noozhawk he is optimistic about the C3H effort.

“I think it’s going to be really effective because there were a lot of partners that were never fully brought in and a lot of conversations that needed to happen that are now happening,” he said. “We’re all dealing with some of the same people; we’re not able to talk about it, so there’s a revolving door for so many clients that we’re throwing money at. If we just talked more ... then he or she or the family might find the help they need and not be in the system anymore.”

The organization needs 500 volunteers for this effort again this year, and Shaffer said people wanting to volunteer should go to CommonGroundSB.org to sign up right away.

The effort will hold three volunteer training days — Thursday, Jan. 17 in Santa Maria, Friday, Jan. 18 in Lompoc and Saturday, Jan. 19 in Santa Barbara.

The survey will be conducted Jan. 22-23. Volunteers must agree to do one of the trainings and conduct surveys on both Jan. 22 and 23.

Shaffer said it’s a great event to be with people from the entire community who care about homelessness.

“It’s also eye-opening to see what homelessness really is like,” he said, adding that it’s also a good way to connect to long-term volunteer opportunities through Common Ground.

In addition to volunteers, the group is also looking for financial donations for items to be given out to those on the streets, such as socks, as well as items needed to do the surveys.

For more information about how to donate, email Shaffer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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.

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 >