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Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 3:57 pm | Partly Cloudy 63º


Santa Barbara Declares Homeless Shelter Emergency to be Eligible for Millions in Grant Funding

City is one of several local jurisdictions applying for state grants for homeless-related programs; city's 2017 Point in Time count found 363 homeless people living without shelter

homeless near city hall Click to view larger
A homeless man sits in De La Guerra Plaza near Santa Barbara City Hall Tuesday afternoon as the City Council votes to declare a shelter emergency. The move means the city is eligible to apply for state grant funding for homeless-related programs.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday declared a homeless shelter emergency in order to be eligible for millions of dollars in state funds.

Earlier this year, California enacted the Homeless Emergency Aid Program, or HEAP, which provides $500 million in block grants to cities and counties to address homelessness.

Santa Barbara County is eligible to receive up to $9.4 million in HEAP funds, an amount based on the countywide 2017 Point In Time Count of homeless individuals. 

The City Council voted unaniously to declare the local emergency. 

“In 2006 the county passed a 10-year-plan to end chronic homelessness, but here we are 12 years later and we are declaring a crisis,” Councilman Eric Friedman said. 

The city Point in Time count last year found 363 homeless people living without shelter.

State HEAP funding is intended to pay for services or programs that include:

» Purchasing temporary housing and/or permanent units to house homeless individuals 

» Operating support for emergency housing interventions, such as homeless prevention, restorative law enforcement, and 24-hour resources for police responding to calls for service related to the homeless population

» Rental assistance and housing stabilization, such as incentives to encourage landlords to rent to formerly homeless individuals or those at risk of becoming homeless

The city has formed a team with employees from the police, fire, library, parks and recreation, city attorney and community development departments to work on the grant application.

The state will accept applications through Dec. 31 for its first round of funding, according to the city.

Only Councilman Randy Rowse expressed concern about Santa Barbara declaring a shelter emergency.

He said Santa Barbara has done an exceptional job of helping the homeless population, and that it is important to recognize the city's good work.

“I am skeptical about the title,” Rowse said. “The title gives me the heebee-jeebies.”

Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon said the title fits. 

“I really believe in openly addressing the problem head-on,” she said. “I believe we do have a shelter crisis. Even if we have just 10 people without a bed, it is a crisis. Calling it a crisis is not an issue for me. We really need to get people to shelter.”

Santa Barbara was one of several local cities who declared shelter emergencies Tuesday to become eligible for the funding. Santa Maria and Goleta city councils both did so at their Tuesday meetings and the Lompoc City Council plans to address the issue at its Oct. 3 meeting. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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