Very early Tuesday morning, over 500 people throughout Santa Barbara County drove on almost-empty streets to meet others at “Logistics Centers” in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Isla Vista, Lompoc and Santa Maria. At the centers, we joined our team of four and were given maps, survey forms, gift cards, socks and cereal bars to take with us on our adventure to go out on the streets to survey homeless men, women and children who live in our areas. We were all part of the Common Ground Santa Barbara Registry Week, an effort to count and interview as many homeless people as we could find on that morning and again on Wednesday morning.
Here at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission logistic center, I was joined by three community volunteers and 12 residents from our residential recovery program. We didn’t have to scout the streets for people: we interviewed some of the 100 men and women who came in for breakfast at the Mission. We started our interviews at 6:00 a.m., and at the end of our two days work, we had completed 70 surveys!
I was impressed by the sincerity and dedication of the five women and seven men from the Rescue Mission. They gave their time not only to do the surveying, but also to attend a training day. Each of the men and women made an effort to show compassion and patience to their interviewee, and a few learned a lot more about their subject than was asked on the survey form. Five of them volunteered to come back in the evening to complete more surveys with our guests. I was so glad to have their help in this big task, and to see them giving back to the community in such a tangible way.
The results from the surveys are being entered into a master database this week, and Common Ground Santa Barbara will be releasing the statistics this month. We will be able to get a more accurate picture of homelessness in our county, not just how many people live in each city, but their age, health problems, how long they have been homeless, the primary reason they became homeless, their addictions, mental illness, and other pertinent information. The surveys will also be ranked on certain criteria of “vulnerability” and the most vulnerable – meaning most likely to die if they continue their life as it is on the streets. They will be identified and prioritized for services and housing. I will continue to be involved in this process, linking our most vulnerable guests to the services that can help them.
Director of Homeless Guest Services