On Nov. 19 the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury issued a report titled “The keys to housing the homeless.” In it the jury makes several observations/recommendations concerning the implementation of two programs to help communities manage their homeless populations: Project Roomkey and Project Homekey.

Summarizing its findings, the Grand Jury says: “The County has found it difficult to duplicate its successes with Projects Roomkey and Homekey. There is a discouraging lack of available property in the County, and property owners are reluctant to turn over what they have for the purpose of housing the homeless. Nor are there identified local funds to sustain the two programs without additional State and Federal grant allocations.”

Although well over 100 rooms (beds) have been provided, it hasn’t proved adequate to handle the nearly 2,000 homeless that were found during the 2021 “point in time” count. One of the cities identified in the report and which was required to respond to four specific recommendations was the city of Lompoc.

The first finding was that Lompoc establish a program to provide “appropriate services, for vulnerable elderly homeless with underlying health conditions.” The city’s response was that city representatives attended meetings.

Second was: “city councils within the County to develop a roster of hotels and motels willing to participate in a Roomkey-type program.” The city’s response was that they attended meetings “where Lompoc provided available sites.”

If the city did supply such a list, shouldn’t it be a public document, so neighbors will know these sites are under consideration?
Third was: “all city councils within the County identify possible Homekey sites including government owned properties.” The city’s response was that they prepared a Comunity Action Plan (CAP) in 2021.

As stated in the CAP 2021: “The program will assist with the safe opening of Lompoc facilities and programs. The program will allow for public accessed capital and program improvements to facilities such as City Hall, Anderson Recreation Center, the Dick DeWees Community Senior Center, and programs for human services. 

“Improvements are identified as, but not limited to, the removal of structures to allow for distancing, installation of ‘no touch’ fixtures and devices for information, sneeze and cough guards, sanitization stations and purchase of computer software for safe business practices to deter the contraction of the Coronavirus.”

The CAP 2021 plan was to provide safe public access to government facilities, not to provide housing locations in government buildings for the homeless.

Lastly, was that “all city councils within the County develop and implement a plan for funding Roomkey and Homekey-type programs.” Lompoc’s response was that they were participating in a plan led by the county. They also provided about a half-million dollars in funding to address the issue.

So, to summarize: Lompoc participated in meetings. But meetings and unrelated plans that don’t address the issue don’t solve problems. They are only perpetual make-work, feel-good exercises that give the appearance something is being done.
Fixing a problem that has been allowed to mutate unabated for well over a decade by enabling many people to seemingly “drop out” of a structured environment and “live free” will take more than meetings.

Convincing the homeless that they should contribute to society instead of waiting for the next freebee isn’t going to be easy, especially when millions are being tossed their way in the form of Electronic Benefit cards, free rooms, free meals, and tax-free cash handouts they can get on the streets.

Thousands of jobs are waiting for workers, but most of these folks prefer the easy road. Speaking from experience, there is no easy road, you must apply yourself to succeed.

I don’t find it surprising that “property owners are reluctant to turn over what they have for the purpose of housing the homeless.”

Experiences in many jurisdictions indicate the homeless folks currently housed in these units have little respect for the places provided for them. A recent local television news report of the end of a city of Santa Barbara’s leasing of a motel to temporarily house homeless showed the property owners tossing all the furniture from the rooms into a dumpster. This was after the homeless left the premises.

Will Lompoc’s response satisfy the Superior Court presiding judge? Hopefully, he will fact check the reply since there seems to be some questionable information in the response that doesn’t address the Grand Jury’s recommendations.


Lompoc Grand Jury response: https://www.cityoflompoc.com/home/showpublisheddocument/33950.

Community Action Plan: https://www.cityoflompoc.com/home/showpublisheddocument/31773/637553909512470000.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry. He has been following Lompoc politics since 1992, and after serving for 23 years appointed to various Lompoc commissions, retired from public service. The opinions expressed are his own.