State of Homelessness in Santa Barbara County

Photo courtesy of Central Coast Collaborative on Homeless (C3H) now Home For Good Santa Barbara County

In Santa Barbara County, homelessness is a challenge we encounter every day. At the Santa Barbara Foundation, we are dedicated to raising awareness around key and pressing issues, such as homelessness, and supporting those organizations that serve our most vulnerable populations.

In 2017, Santa Barbara County reported 1,489 homeless people out of 444,000 residents, or 0.3 percent of the population. Nationally, the statistics are 564,708 out of 323.1 million, or 0.2 percent of the population. While the nation saw a 2.0 percent decline in homelessness, Santa Barbara County saw an increase of 2.0 percent between 2015 and 2017, which highlights the increasing importance of addressing homelessness in our local community.

The 2017 Report on Homelessness in Santa Barbara County by the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness(C3H) which has become Home For Good Santa Barbara County under the direction of the United Way of Northern Santa Barbara County, is a community-driven action plan that is devoted to reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness. Home For Good Santa Barbara County gathers data by tracking homeless individuals using a biennial Point-in-Time Count (PIT) mandated by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. The count tallies sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons on a single night in January in collaboration with numerous community organizations, government agencies, emergency shelters, transitional housing organizations and safe havens, known as Continuums of Care, which span the county.

The next PIT Count of unsheltered individuals and families will be in January 2019 and planning will start in the summer of 2018,” said Emily Allen, Program Director of Home For Good Santa Barbara County. “We will recruit and train hundreds of volunteers countywide to participate in the count and we can’t do this without the 100 plus organizations that support this effort. The Northern Santa Barbara County United Way was selected to be the Lead Agency for the Coordinated Entry System (CES) in collaboration with the United Way of Santa Barbara County and cross-sector partners. CES emphasizes a no-wrong door, countywide system that engages and connects individuals and families experiencing homelessness to the optimal resources for their needs.

Home For Good Santa Barbara County is sharpening its data collection by continuing to build relationships between staff, AmeriCorps members, volunteers and the individuals and families experiencing homelessness countywide.

“The data shows increases in homelessness in Santa Maria (4%), Lompoc (89%), Isla Vista (100%) and Goleta (15%), and a decrease in homelessness in Santa Barbara (-12%) between 2015 and 2017. C3H attributed these increases to more accurate counting methods, rather than actual increases in homelessness,” said Chuck Flacks, Director of Programs at PATH Santa Barbara and former Executive Director of C3H. “For the first time ever, in 2017, we used trained staff to conduct outreach and surveying in the field.  Better counters meant that more people were counted in previously underserved areas, like Goleta, Isla Vista, Lompoc and Santa Maria .”

Home For Good Santa Barbara County offers a new approach to homelessness and specifically focuses on supporting veterans. Representatives from communities, county partners and funders joined Home for Good to create a platform to launch “Keys to Success,” which is a public awareness campaign that aims to engage the public in giving, advocating and volunteering. The campaign’s ultimate goal is to develop a countywide Coordinated Entry System, engage public and private funders and the business community, and use data and evidence-based solutions to address homelessness.

Currently, efforts are underway to improve the federally-mandated Continuum of Care to ensure that all people who need services and housing have access to them. The Santa Barbara Foundation, with generous support from our donors, has substantially contributed to Home For Good partner organizations like Good Samaritan ShelterPeoples’ Self-Help HousingThe Salvation Army (Santa Barbara County)and Transition House, to name a few.

To learn more about the efforts to help end homelessness in our community, support financially, or volunteer, please contact Emily Allen at

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