Hands Across Montecito Performs Census Count of Homeless

By Sharon Byrne   |   October 1, 2020
The team going to Hot Springs camp left to right: Emily and Paulette from City Net, Megan Orloff and Mindy Denson, followed by Kath Washburn, Donna Senauer, and our two deputies

Monday morning at 6 am, a crowd of 30 gathered at a church in Santa Barbara’s Eastside to perform a homeless census count. This is part of the Hands Across Montecito Project, started by the Montecito Association in response to concerns of large encampments growing along the tracks, encounters on Coast Village, thefts, and fires. We have some brave women in Montecito determined to put their hands on this problem and help this community.

Kathryn Washburn leads the team on the trail at Bonnymede

Andrea Hein, Kath Lavidge, Eileen Read, and Jane Olson had already come out with me and Luis Alvarado from Behavioral Wellness on outreach. Behavioral Wellness provides drug, alcohol, and mental health treatment in our county. Luis works Carpinteria to Santa Barbara, and sometimes Goleta, depending on need.

Kathryn Washburn of Montecito Shores, Montecito Community Foundation President Mindy Denson, Montecito Association President Megan Orloff, and Montecito Planning Commission Chair Donna Senaur got to the church on time, and downloaded the interview tool to their phones. We met up with two deputies at the Starbucks on Coast Village Road, and were grateful to have them as we hit the streets. City Net staff let us take the lead, since we knew where to find folks at 6:30 am.

The Hands Across Montecito Project seeks to consistently outreach to those living unsheltered in our community, with the goal of getting them into services and indoors. The Montecito Association is contracting with City Net, an organization working in Santa Barbara, to perform the outreach. As much as Luis, neighbors, and I have been out there, we need a bigger team and consistent outreach to help someone feel they can make a change in their lives. Then you have to navigate them through the maze of services with all the roadblocks therein. It’s a long slog to moving from homelessness to housing and shoving past the bureaucracy is required. Without outreach to connect the person to the services, homelessness persists, as our eyes can readily attest.

Our fearless ladies and deputies hit trails along the backside of Montecito Shores, Bonnymede, and Sea Meadow. We clambered up the off-ramp and waded through the 101 median at Hot Springs. Then we went through the Butterfly tunnel, around the Biltmore, and Coast Village Road. I never thought in a million years that I’d A) meet so many strong women that would stand up, and B) be willing to go interview the homeless in our community before dawn, in a pandemic, and C) are all Montecitans. I’m incredibly impressed. When a community decides to get actively involved in solving its problems rather than waiting for some agency or government entity, amazing things can happen!

Mindy Denson, Megan Orloff, and SBPD get ready for the City Net census count

Hands Across Montecito is launching. Thanks to members of the Montecito Community Foundation, Chief Taylor of MFPD, Lt. Arnoldi of Santa Barbara Sheriffs, Nancy Kimsey of Legacy, Andrea Hein, Andrea Newquist, and Eileen Read for their early support and shaping of this project. We must raise $100,000 for the one-year contract with City Net, with a goal of getting at least half of those living unsheltered here in Montecito permanently indoors. We start with a census and interview to see how many we’re working with, and what they’re going to need. We cover the terrain from East Beach and the Bird Refuge to the Miramar. Partners are Caltrans, Sheriffs, CHP, MFPD, Behavioral Wellness, and now Union Pacific. You can find out more and donate at our website: montecitoassociation.org/projects.

Undergrounding Utilities

Last attempted in 2003, we’re taking a fresh look, with a new impetus. Much of Montecito is in Extremely High Wildfire Risk, designated by Cal Fire, hurting our residents’ ability to procure homeowner’s insurance. It’s a statewide issue, so we worked with our state reps, who introduced legislation that was then swiftly killed by the insurance industry lobby.

At the same time, the California Public Utilities Commission mandated SCE to make their equipment more fire-resistant. TONS of work on that front is going on in Montecito. We’d rather see it all underground. It’s safer, reduces fire hazard, and removes ‘road furniture’ and overhead lines. The cost is insanely high, but there’s hope: one of our neighborhoods is bravely pioneering undergrounding their utilities, with the full support of the Montecito Association. They’ll report what they’re experiencing. We’ll also have all the utilities on with us, as 5G and internet infrastructure are also in play. The office of Assembly member Monique Limón will be there too. The state could require utilities to partner and fund more undergrounding. We could look at forming a Geologic Hazard Abatement District in Montecito to fund some of it too. So don’t miss it! Montecito Association Land Use Committee – Tuesday, October 6 at 4 pm. Login details on our website montecitoassociation.org.


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