Well-Meaning Handouts Not Aiding Homelessness Efforts

By Montecito Journal   |   August 5, 2021

The following is an open letter to the Coast Village Association and the property owners of the Country Mart and Starbucks strip: 

We need you to step up now and help your businesses and customers stop enabling homelessness. Help us solve it instead.  

We are writing to you as Montecito residents and founding members of the Hands Across Montecito Outreach Project. We began outreach a year ago, after seeing a noticeable increase in encampments around Montecito and panhandling on Coast Village Road. We started with 31 individuals living unsheltered in our area from our September 2020 survey. The goal of this project is to get people living unsheltered in Montecito into treatment, if needed, reunified with family, or into permanent housing when possible. We hired City Net, and the county and city followed us in doing the same. We aimed for “functional zero” for Montecito, where homelessness is rare, and turned around quickly.

Community support and involvement makes this project work. We raised significant funds, partnered with county agencies, Montecito Fire, and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, and have committed Montecito volunteers that do outreach, clear camps, support the team, and help shepherd people indoors personally.

We have a big success to report, as we’re almost there! We’ve placed 11 individuals into permanent living situations, have four in hotels, and have seen several leave the area due to not wanting continual outreach. It’s a humanitarian project that works to create solutions for the individual’s unique needs while it also helps keep Montecito a thriving community.

This project is considered highly successful, and other communities are asking us how we did it.

However, we still have three difficult cases to go. It is these folks that you’re helping to keep on the street. There are some changes we want to ask you to make that will make it easier for us to get these folks indoors. These changes will also help with another rapidly emerging problem of increased traffic in the area by people who have “discovered” us.

Our community volunteers see individuals wander over from camps at the Bird Refuge, East Beach, and the Eastside. Vons in the Country Mart and the Starbucks are their go-to spots.

• Some threaten employees of these businesses, or disturb them with yelling, hanging around doorways, asking for food and panhandling.

• Some shoplift, particularly at Vons, because they know they won’t be prosecuted.

• Well-meaning citizens give them money, food and buy them drinks, but it causes the opposite effect the giver intended. Freebies encourage them to hang out and increases their length of stay. Sometimes, handouts invite particularly bad behavior when you don’t give them what they want.

There’s a network, and they share info about our community. We see a definite uptick in visits. It’s like a daily trick-or-treat here, and it’s from nice people who want to feel like they’re helping.

That creates big problems for the Hands Across Montecito outreach team. When someone is comfortable living outdoors and having their needs catered to by well-meaning passers-by, the outreach team can do little to convince the individual to come indoors and/or accept needed treatment. Please know this: giving them money and food keeps them homeless. We know that’s not what people intended to do, but that’s the outcome of these little acts of generosity.

You have enormous power in this situation to help us make a difference, to change lives for the better. We are asking for your support in not giving food or money to these individuals. 

To the CVA and landlords of these properties, we recommend the following:

Assert your private property rights. Both the Country Mart and Starbucks mall next door are private property, as are the parking lots. The property owners should hire security and exercise their right to refuse access to the property for individuals seeking to panhandle and shoplift on their property. You would be protecting your businesses’ employees and their customers. Anyone who has been told not to enter can then be prosecuted for trespassing. This is well within your rights, and SBPD will support you in enforcing your private property rights. However, they will not provide security for your private property any more than they will sit in the driveway of a home because you don’t want to install a burglar alarm. Protecting your private property is your responsibility.

Signal via environmental cues. Place a visible sign at all entrances that this is private property, property owners have the right to refuse access, and trespassers will be prosecuted. People can donate to Hands Across Montecito or one of the area shelters, but please do not give to panhandlers.

The Coast Village Association should step up for a more active role in Hands Across Montecito. You’ve left it to the Montecito Association to provide outreach and services, yet it’s your business members that bears the brunt of impacts from homelessness. The Montecito Association and Hands Across Montecito attend City Council meetings, Board of Supervisors hearings, the homeless outreach coordination calls happening across the city and county, and we ensure the camps get cleaned after we get inhabitants indoors. The Montecito Association’s Hands Across Montecito team have undertaken all the effort, while this area is your association’s jurisdiction. Without your support, the program will be less effective, and your businesses will continue to suffer. You’ve had a very strong partner in us. We’re asking you openly to please be that partner in return. 

To keep Montecito the community we all love and to aid these individuals get the help they need, we’re asking for help from the community, the owners of Montecito Country Mart, Vons and Starbucks mall and the Coast Village Association for their assistance. With everyone doing their part, Hands Across Montecito can be even more successful than it already is.


Andrea Hein, Jane Olsen, Andrea Eltinge, Tracey Singh, Lanny Sherwin, Joanne Moran, Robert Kemp, Cecile Lyons, Noelle Newton, Kathryn Washburn, Debbie DuBois, R. Sickafoose, Montecito Residents and Hands Across Montecito Outreach Team volunteers

A Modest Hero

My wife Melanie and I were privileged to know Jeanne Thayer in the last decade of her life. She was an amazing woman who lived history as we now read about it.

One story she shared with us concerned her stint at the Air Transport Command in Washington, D.C., during World War II. Not surprisingly and as the war progressed, she came to be seen as an extremely competent and highly trusted associate by the chain of command (my interpretation… she was far too modest to say). In the waning years of the war as armies gathered on the English coast for the continental assault, there was a message intended for senior command that was considered too sensitive to be trusted to the wires. Jean was tasked to make a personal delivery.

The journey took the form of a B17 bomber flight from Washington to the English coast. Anyone who has ever been in a B17 knows it to be a war machine with machine guns lined inside a metal hulk and without pressurized air to create frigid like temperatures during flight. Privy accommodations were primitive with zero consideration for female passengers. Jeanne, being who she was, gritted through, completed the mission, returned home and shortly thereafter began a whole new life.

Somehow this story encapsulates one of her greatest attributes — a sense of service and giving back. Be it service to country, community, public institutions, museums, and family, she left enduring impressions and greater good wherever she went.

Richard De Schutter

Lingering Questions Over Water

Why is it that in a severe drought anyone here in Montecito can drill a well?

Why is it that these people can freely use the ground water that the rest of us rely partially on?

Why is it that our water company — Montecito Water — has nothing to do with wells nor, apparently does the Planning Commission?

Why is it that neighbors are not notified of proposed drilling which is very noisy?

Why is it that our County Supervisor does not return calls about this issue?

If anyone has answers to these questions, I would appreciate hearing them.

Mary Wagner

In Need of Robot Companions

Can someone please invent a “Doggie Robot Playmate” so you, the dog owner, can leave your angel at home and, whether outside or in, he or she can be engaged and entertained so that the incessant barking ceases. I live in a dog-friendly neighborhood where it seems I am virtually surrounded by cute canines exuding enthusiasm and friendship when approached with hand extended. But alas, there is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect that occurs whenever dear doggie hears the Amazon truck, or UPS or Domino’s pulls up, or the gardener making his weekly visit; and God forbid a walker should pass by with her own leashed dog or a siren should sound from the distance as an emergency vehicle makes its way closer. I have tried courteous notes explaining my unhappiness with the sudden and often-times lengthy cacophony of sound that erupts early in the morning, noon, and night. The response is usually equally courteous but also bewildered as to how to correct the situation and also incredulous when told their dog becomes immediately quiet once the familiar sound of their vehicle returns to the premises. Sadly, the noise pollution re-starts after a few days.

Listen, I am willing to invest in this robot to jump start things! Be it a commanding cyborg, a carousing canine companion, or a rough-housing robot that can throw a fetch stick or even a dictatorial robot that can give a resounding command to pipe-down the pooch. In this way maybe, non-dog owners and responsible, empathetic dog owners alike can enjoy some peace and quiet in their own home. Am I asking too much?

J. W. Burk

Fauci Coddles Younger Americans 

Dr. Fauci says “we will try anything and everything” to get people vaccinated, like appealing to trusted confidants of the unvaccinated to reason with them. (PBS Nightly News, July 19, 2021) 

Interestingly, Fauci does not even go near suggesting actual enforcement of public health law, the only thing that has ever worked in the history of the world to end epidemics. 

Our infectious disease expert knows that today’s young people in their 20s and 30s will do very little in their own health interests unless and until they are forced to, just like when they were teenagers. 

But the mouthpiece of two administrations also knows that rule of law is politically unpopular today, so he sides with libertarians who think no one should ever be required to do anything against their will. 

Here’s the thing. Our Millennials and (Gen) Zers are happy to do whatever is required of them at work in order to get their paychecks, at pain of firing if they don’t. Why can’t government require them to get vaccinated in order to get their good citizenship paychecks, at pain of fine or lengthy community service if they don’t? 

Kimball Shinkoskey

School System Reconstruction Needed

I’d like to comment on Craig Westover’s letter to the editor (Montecito Journal, July 22) in which he ends his letter by promoting school choice. I couldn’t agree more. School reform should be a No. 1 priority to every citizen as the future of this country relies on the new generations to lead it in an intelligent, ethical, and moral path.

Unfortunately, a good portion of our graduates are woefully uneducated with basic skills, let alone knowing how our government performs in a constitutional republic. There are the fortunate parents that can put their children in private schools, but the majority are unable to bear the burden of the cost. I think it would be a good move for those who would be interested in private schools, to exempt them from public school taxes. Also, the charter schools should be a priority.

With that being said, I believe the public school system is here to stay for better or for worse which leads me to address the question Mr. Westover wonders about as to what gives Mr. Handy (a commenter from a previous letter who promotes Critical Race Theory teaching) and me (who oppose the teaching) the right to impose our views on those who do not share them. My answer is, if not us, then who should speak? We are taxpayers. Our money is funding this public school system. Thousands of parents across the country are enraged with the CRT program and do not want their kids participating in it.

The bottom line is that all citizens of this country are affected now and in the future by the caliber of graduates from our schools and it is frightening to see how many are illiterate in the basics, but worse still is the hatred that is being taught toward our country. I believe a massive reconstruction of our school system, which includes the abolition of the massive and extremely political teachers unions is a good start.

Monica Bond

A Case of Fact vs. Fiction

(In response to) letters of Monica Bond (July 8), Danute Handy (July 15), and Craig Westover (July 22). Historical and systemic racism in our country are undeniable facts. Bond admits that it is a history of which we are all very much aware. So, what part of this history should be banned — or cancelled? Should the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) not be taught in schools? How many (or few) of us were taught about the Tulsa Race Massacre (1921) prior to its 100th anniversary? Should we ignore the plain truth that Donald Trump started the “birther” conspiracy, claiming that our first Black president was not born in the U.S., and therefore not eligible to hold that office? Hate crimes are on the rise against African Americans, Asians, Muslims, and Jews. This is what happens when we sugarcoat history. These acts are overtly racist; acknowledging this reality is not.

As Bond correctly states, some “measures have gone into effect (trying) to remedy these areas of our history” and we should all thank her for the Civics lesson. However, while some measures have succeeded, others have failed or are being reversed. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees equal protection of the laws. But were George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others afforded that “equal” protection? The 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th Amendments, as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, promised the right to vote to every U.S. citizen over the age of 18. Yet, these rights are being undone by state legislatures across the country at this very moment.

Critical Race Theory teaches history; the good, the bad, the ugly — and the uncomfortable. Trying to bury these uncomfortable truths under the guise of faux patriotism encourages and perpetuates racism and divisiveness. Bond’s letter is a perfect example of the dire consequences of not teaching the complete and unabridged version of history in our schools. The “choice” is fact vs. fiction. Where do you stand?

Robert Baruch


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