Staff Report

A survey in January to get a one-night “snapshot” of Santa Barbara County’s homeless population found slightly fewer homeless people than two years earlier, but also found a dramatic increase in the number living without shelter.

Countywide, 1,803 homeless people were counted, which includes 1,133 people (62 percent) unsheltered and 670 living in emergency shelters or transitional housing. In 2017, the official count was 1,860 people, with 893 (48 percent) unsheltered.

In addition, the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness increased by 87 percent over the two years.

The biennial “point in time” (PIT) count of homeless people was conducted on Jan. 24 by the Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County Continuum of Care (CoC). The count is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Also participating were Northern Santa Barbara County United Way Home for Good, Applied Survey Research, Simtech Solutions and more than 500 volunteers.  

Highlights from the data include:

  • 42 percent (479) of the unsheltered count (1,133) were people living in their vehicles
  • 115 households with 226 children under the age of 18 were homeless the night of the count. This does not include families doubled up, paying for a motel, or at risk of homelessness.
  • 423 people were experiencing chronic homelessness, an increase of 87 percent (226) from 2017

A comprehensive report of the data people will be released later in the year.

Home for Good recruited more than 500 volunteers to assist, including 449 people who showed up at 5 a.m. to canvas 89 census tracts across the county. The 2019 PIT Count will serve as a baseline for future data comparisons. Volunteers who were canvassing and surveying used a mobile application from Simtech to gather real-time data. Additionally, vehicle counts were conducted using guidance from Applied Survey Research with demographic information provided from the New Beginnings Safe Parking Program.

The accompanying chart provides count data by city or area compared to the 2017 PIT Count. The homeless population was distributed throughout the county: 1,074 (60 percent) people on the South Coast, 475 (26 percent) in the North County, and 254 (14 percent) in mid-county.

The survey found five homeless people in the Santa Ynez Valley, compared to one in 2017.

The survey included questions regarding last permanent residence and how long a person had lived in the county. The results support data collected in the Homeless Management Information System that the population experiencing homelessness is largely part of the community and not those who have relocated from other regions.

  • 76 percent became homeless while living in Santa Barbara County
  • 60 percent have lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 10 years or the majority of their lives

The Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County Continuum of Care promotes community-wide planning and strategic use of resources and programs targeted to people experiencing homelessness.

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