After obtaining public feedback and capturing homelessness data, the Goleta City Council was educated Tuesday on what was found—and possible solutions.

Staff from the Goleta Neighborhood Services and Public Safety Department worked on a city homelessness strategic plan, which will help prioritize and guide funding efforts to help the homeless population. 

Two surveys were developed—one for homeless individuals to obtain feedback on priority needs and concerns, and another for the public to garner input from the community.

Nearly 50 voluntary surveys were obtained from homeless individuals, predominantly those living on the streets and in vehicles or RVs, according to city staff.

When asked where they normally sleep, 41 percent responded “in a tent or other outdoor camp,” 55 percent said they lived in a car or RV, 5 percent indicated they were currently sleeping at a homeless shelter, and 5 percent were couch surfing. 

More than 80 percent of homeless respondents said they would use a free storage unit for belongings.

Seventy-four percent said they would use a center to rest during the day, do laundry and take a shower.

Also of note in the data was that surveyors shared the need for more affordable housing, more free showers and meals, and warming centers year-round with a higher temperature threshold. Warming centers in Santa Barbara County open when temperatures fall below 35 degrees or when the forecast calls for rainy winter weather.

“Thirty-six degrees is pretty cold, too, or under 40,” Senior Project Manager Claudia Dato said.

Other common responses from homeless individuals were the need for more work experience, employment assistance, and a place to be without being harassed or kicked out, plus better treatment by law enforcement and the lack of education about the homeless community.

About 65 percent of people said they had lived in Santa Barbara County before becoming homeless, 13 percent lived in other areas of California, and 22 percent were living outside of the state.

More than 50 percent have lived in Goleta for more than five years, according to the survey.

According to the Santa Barbara County Point in Time Count, there are about 119 homeless or “unsheltered” people in the city.

Goleta received more than 430 survey responses from the general public, management analyst Dominique Samario said.

For the community-based survey, more than 80 percent were Goleta residents, nearly 10 percent were business owners, 48 percent were property owners, 36 percent work in the city, nearly 6 percent were students, and 16 percent were others. 

More than 74 percent of respondents feel homelessness is one of the most critical issues within Goleta, according to the survey.

The majority of respondents were supportive of case management and outreach efforts, job training, additional safe parking program spaces for those living in vehicles and RVs, transitional housing and a warming center, the survey said.

Most respondents believe mental health issues (90 percent) and substance abuse (89 percent) are the primary causes of homelessness.

“I think this is a terrific report,” Councilman Stuart Kasdin said. “It’s helpful.”

The goal is to present the draft plan to the City Council for review in April, and present the final plan to council members in June.

City staff developed a comprehensive list of possible goals and implementation objectives that the City Council may ultimately select as part of the adoption of the final homelessness strategic plan. 

Some actions can be accomplished almost immediately, while others may take a few or several years to execute, according to a staff report.

A few short-term objectives include additional spaces for the safe parking program, establishing a Showers of Blessing site in Goleta and establishing a warming center in or near Goleta. Showers of Blessing is a nonprofit organization that travels to various spots in south Santa Barbara County to provide showers, socks and clean underwear to homeless people. 

Some long-term objectives were increasing the supply of housing, pass a living wage ordinance for Goleta, and develop public restrooms with showers open 24/7, among other ideas.

“In five to ten years, we are going to have a bigger problem,” Mayor Paula Perotte said of homelessness. “It’s growing, and there’s a definite need to do as much as we can as soon as we can.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.