Homelessness Update: Montecito Leading the Way

By Sharon Byrne   |   December 3, 2020
Luis Alvarado, Homeless Outreach with Behavioral Wellness of Santa Barbara County, checks to see whether anyone is in a tent at the beach under the Clark Estate

The Hands Across Montecito initiative got off to a great start this September. We did a census count with a terrific team of Montecito volunteers, our fire chiefs, sheriffs, and members of Behavioral Wellness, organized by City Net. We hiked all over Montecito, interviewing, and finding out more about who is living unsheltered here, and why. 

We got the results from the census count, and there were some surprises:

28 individuals were counted between the Bird Refuge and the Miramar.

17 were willing to talk to us, 11 refused.


6 females

11 males

Age range:

18-34: 5 

35-44: 5 

45-54: 3 

55-65: 4 

The encampments starting under Santa Barbara Cemetery. Most are in a small inlet down beach from this tent site.

Race / ethnicity:

White: 9

Black / African American: 3

American Indian: 1

Hispanic / Latino: 3

Multi-ethnic: 1

U.S. Veteran: 1 

12 had health insurance. Nine had permanent disabilities. Three had alcohol addictions, three had drug addictions. One admitted to having both. Nine admitted to having health concerns.

How long have you been homeless?

<1 year: 4

1-2 years: 5

3-5 years: 5

6-10 years: 1

21+ years: 2

We observed four people sleeping in vehicles as part of this census count.

Our original direction was to contract with City Net to reduce our homeless population by half over the course of a year. However, we knew the census count numbers were a bit low, given what we’d been seeing during outreach. This meant we’d been a bit of a victim of our early success in outreach prior to bringing in City Net. Two people had moved into hotel rooms, two were reunited with family, while four to five others had left the area for Isla Vista and parts unknown. 

We also have some individuals that present as either consistent enforcement issues or who are very vulnerable, so we decided as a team to focus on a top five group of those that we’d very much like to see indoors, treated, and stable. We will also continue pursuing outreach with City Net to create a consistent presence in the community, as some people we outreach to will say yes to coming indoors.

Our community has raised $54,000 of the $100,000 needed for this project, which is amazing! We still have $46,000 to go, and would welcome your support. Projects like Hands Across Montecito that have strong community backing, volunteers, and support tend to be the most successful.

If you would like to donate to Hands Across Montecito:

On our website, montecitoassociation.org, click “Projects,” and Hands Across Montecito.

You can also send a check: 

1. Make it out to City Net. Please put “Montecito” in the memo section.

2. Mail it to the Montecito Association at P.O. Box 5278, Santa Barbara 93150. We tabulate and send all donations on to City Net for the project.

We have a monthly Zoom call as a community with City Net and our partners to review our cases and see the progress on the first Wednesday of the month at 9:30 am.

Others are Interested in How Montecito is Getting Results With Our Homeless Outreach Project.

Over the past month, we’ve presented on Hands Across Montecito to the Sheriff’s Stepping Up team, the Behavioral Wellness Commission, the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce’s Government Relations Committee, and met with Visit Santa Barbara representatives and Eastside City Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez. It turns out that once we started getting results, others wanted to see how we’re doing it, and they’re following our lead. The County approved a contract with City Net in October to do outreach and case management like what we’re doing, countywide. We have had some Montecito focus with that new countywide team as well. The Chamber and City of Santa Barbara have been concerned with camps at the waterfront. They’ve made some steps to clear them, but are now looking to see whether City Net can help with outreach. We’ve encouraged all these groups to think and partner regionally. If our outreach in Montecito causes someone to relocate to Isla Vista, and this has happened, it’s really not a win, because now they’ll be another community’s issue. So if we partner up and all take a consistent approach regionally, anyone experiencing homelessness is met with outreach, and this will help get many more people into shelter and housing, and leave life on our streets. 

We’re working on the beach encampments under the Clark Estate and cemetery too, as part of this project, so stay tuned to these pages for more updates. If you’d like to be involved in Hands Across Montecito, we welcome you to reach out to us at info@montecitoassociation.org.


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