Friday, August 17 , 2018, 1:01 am | Fair 69º


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Amid Some Confusion, Montecito Flooding Evacuation Center Is Shut Down

With some 30 clients remaining, decision was made to close Red Cross facility at San Marcos High School near Goleta early Thursday

With the closure of the American Red Cross evacuation shelter at San Marcos High School, the remaining 30 or so clients were given backpacks filled with snacks, personal-care items, ponchos, tube tents, etc.
With the closure of the American Red Cross evacuation shelter at San Marcos High School, the remaining 30 or so clients were given backpacks filled with snacks, personal-care items, ponchos, tube tents, etc. (American Red Cross photo)

With the number of evacuees being served dwindling, the American Red Cross shelter at San Marcos High School was shut down Thursday morning, spurring rumors and confusion about the reasons for doing so.

“First and foremost, even though it was a swift decision to the public, our clients have been meeting with case workers in the shelter for days, putting together individual recovery plans,” Kimberly Coley, executive director of the American Red Cross Pacific Coast and Ventura County chapters, told Noozhawk.

About 30 people remained at the shelter near Goleta on Wednesday, Coley said, and only about a third were people who were directly affected by the Montecito flooding and mud flow.

The remainder were those who were otherwise affected by the flooding and road closures, including people she referred to as the “pre-disaster homeless population.”

Coley said the decision to close the shelter, effective at 6 a.m., was made collaboratively with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and the county’s Emergency Operations Center.

“We work very closely with our government partners,” Coley said. “The decision was made at the recommendation of the Sheriff’s Office and the school, where we were trying to host on campus during school hours.”

The original plan was to close the shelter Wednesday evening, Coley said, but the decision was made to allow people to stay until Thursday morning.

Coley acknowledged that the Red Cross did not do a good job getting word of the closure out to the public.

“Our team last night, if they had gotten a press release out at 10 or 11 at night, we would have found ourselves in a different situation today. We did not communicate to the media effectively.”

Asked about online reports that conflicts regarding some clients’ desire to smoke marijuana or other factors prompted the shelter closure, Coley said she was not aware of an particular incidents.

“It was not one single specific situation,” Coley said. “We’ve been sheltering for a good while, and the transition of the shelter is a good thing. We had a manageable amount of people we could transition to a much more comfortable situation.”

“We never close a shelter unless there’s a plan to transition in a healthy way,” she said.

The clients have been given individual recovery plans based on their “pre-disaster living situations,” Coley said.

“It’s one of those things where disasters don’t discriminate,” Coley said. “Everyone is impacted, and we allow everyone and anyone into the shelter. But a shelter is intended to be a temporary. short-term solution.”

Those directly affected by the flooding have been offered hotel rooms or other lodging, while the homeless have been directed back to traditional services such as permanent shelters and warming centers, she said.

Each person leaving was offered a Red Cross backpack, put together by volunteers, filled with snacks, personal-care items, ponchos, tube tents, etc., Coley said.

She added that those in need “are still under our care.”

A Local Assistance & Recovery Center will be open through Feb. 3 at Calvary Chapel in Santa Barbara, as a one-stop resource center for people to ask questions and get help applying for assistance. 

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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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