Support Sharon Byrne and City Net for a Montecito Homeless Solution

By Jim Witherell   |   October 13, 2020

Solving tough community problems requires committed people coming together to build effective coalitions. Congratulations to Sharon Byrne, executive director of the Montecito Association, for her courage in launching “Hands Across Montecito,” a community-based homeless outreach project, scheduled to roll out this month in Montecito.

Homelessness in Our Area

The State of California leads the nation in homelessness. As of January 2019, our state had an estimated 151,278 homeless people who sleep on the streets each night due to economic hardship, loss of jobs, substance abuse, mental health problems, or other issues. California has almost 25 percent of the homeless population in the United States.

The City of Santa Barbara has not been immune to this humanitarian crisis. The number of persons experiencing homelessness has reputedly averaged around 951 since 2011. More recently, the 2019 Point-in-Time Count physically identified 887 homeless individuals living in Santa Barbara. The economic devastation caused by COVID-19 in 2020 has likely pushed these numbers much higher. There are some 366 shelter beds available to the homeless in the city. There is no licensed long-term care for the diagnosed mentally ill or veterans.

One area of special concern is the influx of the city’s homeless population to sheltered Montecito encampments along the Union Pacific railroad’s right-of-way, stretching all the way from the Andree Clark Bird Refuge to the Rosewood Miramar Beach Resort. When requested by the County Sheriff’s Department to vacate encampments along the Union Pacific right-of-way, the homeless simply relocate from one area of Montecito to another, often returning to their original encampments when the eviction request expires.

Homeless sightings in the Upper Village have declined somewhat in the last year, while homelessness has increased along Coast Village Road, especially near the John Price Chevron Station and take-out Point Market, adjacent to the Highway 101 pedestrian underpass from Butterfly Lane and the railroad tracks to Coast Village Road.

What is City Net?

Byrne’s “Hands Across Montecito” plan is to partner with City Net, an established organization with successful experience in building multi-agency solutions to house the homeless and remove dangerous encampments. Byrne became acquainted with the power of City Net in 2018 through its recruitment by Alan Bleecker of Capital Hardware after Byrne had worked in partnership with the Milpas business community in 2014-2016 to reduce homelessness on Milpas Street. 

City Net already has a contract with the City of Santa Barbara to administer a program called “Santa Barbara Connect Home,” a partnership between the City of Santa Barbara, City Net, Cottage Health, and Santa Barbara Restorative Police. The program was made possible by a $2 million grant from the California Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) and will remain in effect until June 30, 2021.

The Santa Barbara Connect Home team collaborates with various community resources including, the Santa Barbara Fire Department, Home for Good/AmeriCorps, and the Downtown Ambassadors. In addition, City Net offers a dynamic team of outreach and engagement staff and case managers who facilitate services on State Street and other high-density homeless areas within the city.

Hands Across Montecito

Hands Across Montecito, in partnership with City Net, plans to provide an outreach team to establish relationships with some of the most vulnerable members of the community. They hope their approach will be successful in navigating homeless individuals in Montecito to permanent housing, relocating chronically unsheltered individuals from the streets to safe and supportive transitional shelters, and building relationships with individuals who are willing to engage in case management services.

A Montecito contract with City Net will be expensive, costing some $80,000 a year for our community. An effort will be made to secure funding grants and contributions from homeowners amounting to $100,000 to fund the contract and related expenses in year one. It is hoped that the program will be so successful that it will be taken over by County Social Services and funded through County homeless funds, grants, and private donations in subsequent years.

Community Outreach

The owners and other occupants of the 113 Montecito homes in Bonnymede, the 100 homes in Montecito Shores, and the 28 homes in Sea Meadow, with their access to Hammond’s Trail and Butterfly Beach, need to join with all 38 other Homeowner Associations in Montecito in voluntary support of “Hands Across Montecito.”

As President of the Bonnymede Homeowners’ Association, I urge our 113 homeowners, as well as the entire Montecito community, to support the “Hands Across Montecito” partnership effort with City Net to address this growing problem of homelessness in Montecito. We must respect the rights of the homeless and disadvantaged, while addressing homeowner concerns over the health and safety of all residents – those living in safe homes, as well as those living in nearby homeless encampments.

City Net is a 501(c)3 organization. Donations are tax-deductible and can be sent by

City Net is a 501(c)3 organization. Donations are tax-deductible and can be sent by check to City Net at PO Box 146, 133 East De La Guerra, Santa Barbara, CA, 93101. Please include “Montecito” in the memo section of the check. Another alternative is to donate through the Montecito Association website to make an online gift to City Net.

 

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