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091018 Homeless triage 03.jpg (copy)

A truck filled with the possessions of local homeless residents passes a gate Sept. 10 into the triage center at River Park, which was set up to accommodate those evicted from the Santa Ynez Riverbed. Lompoc Police Chief Pat Walsh has recommended ways that community members can help with the situation.

Lompoc Police Chief Pat Walsh said he was proud and inspired by the successes at the homeless triage center that opened last week to help support people evicted from the Santa Ynez Riverbed, but he noted that help is still needed.

In an open letter to the community that was posted Friday on the Police Department’s app and social media outlets, Walsh said that 55 people had checked themselves into the 30-day triage center, which became fully operational at River Park on Sept. 10. Along with the people who have taken up camp at the center, representatives from at least eight support and service organizations have also been on hand to offer assistance.

Walsh noted that the first week of the center was “extremely stressful” for those people who were relocated from the riverbed, but he credited everyone involved for making the transition a smooth one. Among the ways that local residents still can aid in the effort, he said, is by offering up rooms in their homes in which people could live.

“I have been humbled by their compassion and perseverance in providing assistance to the homeless clients in the triage center,” Walsh wrote of the service providers who have been at the center. “I truly cannot say enough about the kindness and love these individuals are showing their fellow man; it is inspiring.”

The organizations represented at the center include Good Samaritan Shelters Inc.; Planting a Seed; Home for Good; and the Santa Barbara County departments of behavioral health, public health, social services, animal control, and the public defender’s office.

Among the early successes shared by Walsh: One person agreed to enter a detox facility; one entered a long-term drug treatment center; two people agreed to receive crisis services; one entered a long-term shelter; three entered the shelter system; and three are receiving outpatient drug and alcohol treatment.

He went on to note that social services has restored benefits for several of the triage center clients; the public defender’s office has helped many of them obtain identifications; animal services has worked with Care4Paws to care for animals at the center; and local mechanics and bicycle shops have helped fix campers’ vehicles and bikes.

Community help needed

Walsh noted, though, that help is still needed from the local community.

One of the biggest ways in which residents could help, he said, is by opening their homes to those in need.

“Housing is in short supply and many of these individuals are desperate for housing,” Walsh wrote in the letter. “Many are older, some are veterans and, if given the chance, they would be good tenants. Many have assistance in the form of social security, [Housing and Urban Development] vouchers for rent, and other benefits. Unfortunately, there are few open apartments or HUD housing available.

“These are the types of individuals that would be excellent roommates,” he later wrote, “and would be willing to pay rent if given the chance.”

Walsh noted that people in other communities had provided housing for homeless people “with great results.”

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“I would ask that the community search their hearts and consider opening their homes,” the police chief wrote. “This is a hard choice, but if you find yourself in a position to do this, please consider. You may be the catalyst to helping someone find their footing.”

Walsh said that people can also help by donating money, which could be used to help reunite some of the triage center clients with family members or support systems they may have previously had.

The city of Lompoc has identified three charities to help with those efforts. Those include:

Other needed items that people could donate to the triage center, according to Walsh, include: small flashlights, batteries, feminine hygiene products; gloves and stocking caps, new socks and blankets.

The city is requesting that all donations be brought to the Bridgehouse shelter at 2025 Sweeney Road, with a label indicating “For Triage Center.”

Riverbed cleanup

In his letter, Walsh also touched on the riverbed cleanup, which was the motivation for the evictions.

Walsh said that city and county leaders are currently working on the cleanup phase of the massive undertaking, which Walsh set into motion by proposing the idea to the Lompoc City Council on Feb. 6.

“At this time I do not believe a ‘community cleanup’ is possible,” Walsh wrote. “The amount of trash and debris is just too great, and the hazards too many. As the plan develops we will keep you apprised.”

Walsh concluded the letter by asking that people show compassion as the process moves forward.

“I would ask for your continued thoughts and prayers for those in the triage center and for those working with the homeless,” he wrote. “This is a complex issue with many moving parts. At the end of the day our desire is to help those in need, and at the same time make our city safe and livable. I do not believe those two are exclusive of each other.”

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Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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Reporter

Willis Jacobson covers news and other issues, primarily those that affect the Lompoc Valley and Vandenberg Air Force Base, for Lee Central Coast News. He is a graduate of The University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications.