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Santa Barbara County preliminary data show slight decrease in homelessness

An interim housing village similar to the one shown here is planned for Santa Maria. Photo is DignityMoves in Santa Barbara.
Beth Thornton
An interim housing village similar to the one shown here is planned for Santa Maria. This photo is of DignityMoves located in downtown Santa Barbara.

The Point-in-Time Count takes place once a year and is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a way to get a snapshot of people experiencing homelessness. This year’s count for Santa Barbara County took place in the early morning hours on January 25th. Volunteers canvassed the county and physically counted the number of people living in shelters, outdoors, or in vehicles.

Kimberlee Albers is the Homeless Assistance Program Manager for Santa Barbara County. She said preliminary numbers show a decrease in overall homelessness.

“The 2023 Santa Barbara Point-in-Time Count of people experiencing homelessness is 1,887 and that represents a 3.7% decrease from the number in 2022,” Albers said.

There was a slight decrease overall in people experiencing homelessness, but numbers went up in certain parts of the county. For example, Santa Maria increased from 457 last year to 472. Albers said an interim housing village similar to one in Santa Barbara is planned for Santa Maria later this year.

“We believe that with Hope Village in Santa Maria being such a significant project with 94 rooms, that we will see more individuals sheltered and less unsheltered,” she said.

She said the shelter beds added last year in South County at DignityMoves and the Salvation Army Hospitality House made a difference for people seeking shelter.

“We were glad to see that the number of persons who were sheltered on the night of the count increased given the significant amount of unsheltered homelessness here in Santa Barbara County,” Albers said.

The numbers also showed a shift in the neighboring areas of Isla Vista and Goleta. Isla Vista’s numbers went down and Goleta’s went up. Albers said this change seems to reflect people living in vehicles and where they were parked on the night of the count.

Albers said Point-in-Time totals are a snapshot of one night and a piece of a larger puzzle. The numbers are used along with other year-round data to inform policies and allocate resources.

More than 400 volunteers are needed countywide to complete the Point-in-Time Count. Kirsten Cahoon from Good Samaritan Shelter helped coordinate the effort in North County. She said many community members participated.

“We can always use more volunteers but we were able to cover all of the census tracts, so that’s what was really important,” Cahoon said.

A final report with more details will be released in May. Neighboring San Luis Obispo County has not yet released their Point-in-Time numbers for this year.

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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