homeless camp
A Lompoc Police Department photo shows elaborate encampments created by homeless residents in the Santa Ynez Riverbed.Police are evicting people on Monday and will open a triage center to connect them to services, and the city plans to launch a clean-up effort of the riverbed.  (City of Lompoc photo)

With move-out day nearing and the triage center set to open Monday for residents evicted from the Santa Ynez Riverbed, the Lompoc City Council set aside $40,000 to pay for the center but remains hopeful other contributions will help ease the financial burden.

On Tuesday night, the City Council authorized the funding, but City Manager Jim Throop said some contributions received already will help cover costs. 

For instance, Good Samaritan Shelter has offered $3,500 and Santa Barbara County agreed to bring showers, which made up approximately $1,000 of the estimate.

“I’m hoping this decreases substantially through the partnerships, but to get this funded and make sure we can pay the bills up front we need the approval of the council,” Throop said Tuesday night.

More than 100 people once lived in the riverbed but the number has recently dropped to 40, city staff estimated. 

Lompoc has set a Sept. 10 deadline for people to move out and has been issuing notices for the last month. 

The city’s plan, crafted over several months, calls for creating a triage center in a portion of River Park from Sept. 10 to Oct. 9 to assist relocated residents with their assorted needs by providing access to social services agencies, public and mental health staff and more.

The center also hopes to offer reunification/diversion services, birth certificates and other documentation for identification needed to get services, bus passes, transitional housing, detox services and more in what Throop called “a critical point of the cleanup.”

Police Chief Pat Walsh said immediate needs include sleeping bags, tents, water jugs and dog crates. 

“We are going to allow dogs but at night they’ve got to be crated,” Walsh said, adding that donated items could be dropped off at the Bridge House Shelter.

Eviction notices have been delivered on a weekly basis but will begin to be handed out daily to the remaining people living in the riverbed.  

Before approving the current funding, the council previously authorized $21,000 for police officers’ overtime.

Lompoc’s plan calls for deliberate steps to evict homeless residents and help them in various ways while avoiding legal troubles that arose for Southern California communities conducting similar evictions.

A week ago, the police chief and city manager asked the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for assistance. 

Throop told county leaders the eviction and related effort becomes a financial burden with the opening of the triage center.

The price tag for the effort is expected to grow once riverbed clean-up starts, since police estimated there are some 70 encampments filled with debris including wood, mattresses, and hazardous materials such as needles. 

Removing the encampments could add up to tens of thousands of dollars, and leaders of cash-strapped Lompoc told county representatives the city does not want to dip into its limited reserves to cover the cost.

On Tuesday night, Mayor Bob Lingl said he attended a meeting with representatives of 17 Northern California cities who had heard about Lompoc’s plan.

“They’ve heard about this and they’ve said, ‘How can we get a copy of your plan?’ There’s a lot of good words out there,” Lingl said.

“So we’re doing a good job,” he told city staff. 

Individuals and businesses looking to help can make donations through Micah Mission via the website by clicking here, at Chase Bank via account number 310597858, or by mail to: Micah Mission P.O. Box 1115 Lompoc, CA 93438. Any checks should be made out to “Micah Mission” and indicate that they are for “Hope for the Homeless.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.