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Point-in-Time Count preliminary results show increase in homelessness in SB County

The recent Point in Time Count for Santa Barbara County found more persons experiencing homelessness in Santa Maria, Lompoc and Isla Vista than in 2020.
Courtesy Good Samaritan Shelter
The recent Point-in-Time Count for Santa Barbara County showed an increase in people experiencing homelessness in Santa Maria, Lompoc and Isla Vista.

Santa Barbara County released preliminary numbers from this year’s Point-in-Time Count, which offers a snapshot of homelessness on a single night. Volunteers canvassed the county on February 23, 2022.

The total shows an increase of 3.4 percent in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the county since 2020. The count did not happen last year due to the pandemic.

"Our total count, again as just a snapshot on a single evening, is 1,962 persons experiencing homelessness and that’s in sheltered and unsheltered locations. That’s an increase from 1,897 that we counted in 2020," Kimberlee Albers said.

Albers is the Homeless Assistance Program Manager in the county's Housing and Community Development Division.

She said actual numbers may be even higher since rising rents and lack of available rentals have increased the number of people in need of housing and services in the last year.

"Year-round data is a more accurate representation of what’s going on. Our internal data does show that this is probably a bit of a low count," Albers said.

Point-in-Time Count volunteers in Lompoc.
County of SB
Point-in-Time Count volunteers in Lompoc.

Albers said the numbers in South County went down in most places, except Isla Vista. Numbers increased in Mid and North County and the unincorporated areas.

Spencer Brandt is the board president of the Isla Vista Services District. He participated in the count in I.V. and said some of the increase is explained by the new shelter on El Colegio Road.

“The Hedges House of Hope houses over 40 people who were previously experiencing homelessness in Isla Vista and the South Coast Region,” Brandt said.

He said the increase in unsheltered individuals, many living in cars, indicates a need for more resources.

The number of people experiencing homelessness also increased in Lompoc and Santa Maria.

Sylvia Barnard, chair of the county’s Continuum of Care and executive director of Good Samaritan Shelter, said she is not surprised by the numbers.

“We’re the shelter provider in both Lompoc and Santa Maria and we have seen a rise in homelessness. There’s also been a rise in unsheltered [people] especially in the encampments and river beds,” Barnard said.

The Point-in-Time Count is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Barnard said the numbers also help to inform local decision-making.

The final report will be released May 5.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, and has contributed to KQED's statewide radio show The California Report.
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