Santa Barbara County’s homeless population hasn’t changed much in size, but homeless advocates discovered there has been a shift in where homeless people are living after the data recorded during the 2017 Point in Time homeless count conducted Jan. 26 was reviewed.

Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness (C3H) coordinated the biennial count mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The count records sheltered and unsheltered homeless people on a single night in January. The count does not note people living in overcrowded or “couch surfing” conditions or those in jail, treatment facilities or hospitals.

“The overall number of homeless people, sheltered and unsheltered reported during the Point in Time counts has remained remarkably consistent in Santa Barbara County over the past six years,” said Chuck Flacks, C3H executive director.

The 2017 homeless count recorded 1,489 people without homes in the county, down less than 50 from the 1,536 counted in 2011.

On Jan. 26 from 6:30 to 11 p.m. from strategic points in the county, 136 volunteers were deployed to areas where homeless people are known to have been located in the past.

“The largest increases in numbers of homeless people were observed in Lompoc, Goleta and Isla Vista when compared to previous counts,” Flacks said in his executive summary of the count’s findings.

The count doesn’t provide enough information as to why there seemed to be a shift in where homeless people are living, he said.

Flacks thinks that better tools and volunteers may have worked to make the count more accurate, which could have led to the changes in results compared to previous years.

The rental market and lack of vacancies, particularly in the South County, may have contributed to the shifts, he added.

“South County, Carpinteria and Santa Barbara, in particular, have continued to become more expensive to live in, with rental markets that have near-zero vacancy rates. It is likely that some of the observed increases in Lompoc and Santa Maria may be because housing and cost of living is more affordable in these cities,” he said.

Slight increase in Santa Maria

Count volunteers found 338 homeless people in Santa Maria on Jan. 26.

Compared to 2015’s numbers, the number of homeless people in Santa Maria increased by 4 percent. Compared to 2011’s numbers, there has been a 39-percent increase.

Of the 338 people counted in the city, 253 were residing in homeless shelters and 85 were unsheltered. Eight were identified who live in a vehicle.

Most of the homeless in Santa Maria were male. Forty-five percent were Latino, 37 percent white.

Lompoc number nearly doubles

Volunteers counted 219 homeless people in Lompoc.

Compared to the 2015 count, the numbers increased by 89 percent, and increased by 111 percent compared to 2013 figures.

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Of the more than 200 homeless counted in Lompoc, 152 were sheltered, 67 unsheltered.

Volunteers identified nine homeless veterans. 

Thirty-nine percent of the homeless were white, and 32 percent were Latino.

Nearly 30 percent of the homeless people counted in Lompoc are 18 years old or younger.

Most homeless in Santa Barbara

Though the number of homeless people has been on the decline in the city of Santa Barbara the last six years, the city seemed to have the largest homeless population. Volunteers identified 790.

The number decreased by 12 percent compared to 2015’s numbers; 16 percent compared to 2013; and 24 percent compared to 2011’s figures.

More than half the homeless in Santa Barbara were white, and 60 percent male.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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