With the coronavirus adding a new challenge for people experiencing homelessness in and around Goleta, the city is partnering with local agencies to assist homeless residents during this difficult time.

Safe parking areas are being provided for people who sleep in their vehicles.

Safe parking areas are being provided for people who sleep in their vehicles. (Courtesy photo)

“While there is still much work to be done to ensure the health and safety of Goleta’s houseless residents and the community at large, the city is committed to doing what it can to support the wellbeing of all its residents,” Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte said.

The city is partnering with New Beginnings Counseling Center’s Safe Parking and Rapid Rehousing Program to provide parking lots for people living in their vehicles and needing to shelter in place. Monitored parking lots allow participants to remain in a consistent location day and night during the stay-at-home order, and access restrooms and handwashing stations.

The city also is providing access to drinking water, charging stations, and wi-fi.

In partnership with Goleta Union School District, Goleta Valley Community Center, United Boys and Girls Clubs at the Goleta Club, and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, food distribution and school lunches are being shared with community members via drive-thru and walk-up service to all who are in need, no questions asked.

Also provided at the Goleta Valley Community Center are two temporary, portable restrooms, including an ADA accessible unit, which are available for daytime use and thoroughly sanitized daily.

While the community may see encampments in new locations, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines say that to prevent the spread of COVID-19, communities should not clear encampments at this time unless they can provide an individual room for each person. This is to protect inhabitants, the community, and public safety personnel.

To address the issue, the city is notifying outreach teams from County Behavioral Wellness and Home for Good about any new encampments so service workers can perform safety checks and educate people regarding ways to stay safe.

Goleta is also working with both outreach teams to provide essential items to those currently experiencing homelessness. This includes bags of food, socks, and hand sanitizer. Reports of homeless encampments should be directed to the city’s new Community Resource Deputy Ben Sandu by calling 805-335-4238 or emailing dbs4260@sbsheriff.org.

Additionally, as part of the regional COVID-19 Homeless/Housing Task Force, the Goleta is working with Santa Barbara County to find hotel/motel partners willing to provide rooms to people at high-risk of contracting COVID-19.

Any hotels or motels interested in learning more about partnering with the county on this effort should contact Dominique Samario with the city of Goleta, 805-690-5126 or emailing dsamario@cityofgoleta.org.

In the summer of 2019, the Goleta began the process of developing a Homelessness Strategic Plan. Once adopted, it will help guide and coordinate efforts to prevent and address homelessness within the city. A draft is expected to be brought before the City Council for discussion this summer. Learn more at https://tinyurl.com/GoletaHomelessnessPlan.