By Emerson Malone
Last Tuesday, October 23rd, the City of Santa Barbara approved the merging of the three largest agencies that serve the homeless in Santa Barbara County. The vote was 5-2, with Grant House and Cathy Murillo opposing.
Bringing Our Community Home, Common Ground Santa Barbara and the South Coast Homeless Advisory Committee are now the The Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness or C3H. The merger was already approved by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, but the City of Santa Maria and Carpinteria have yet to vote on the collaborative.
The effort to bring these organizations together has been in the works for the better part of a year.
“I’m really hoping that we can coordinate a better countywide response to homelessness,” said lawyer Emily Allen, who sits on the H3C’s Coordinating Council, was a member of the South Coast Homeless Advisory Committee, and does pro bono legal advocacy homeless persons in Restorative Court. “We’re going to be working on this issue in a more effective way,” Allen said.
Before the vote, Councilmember Dale Francisco asked for a change to the collaborative’s vision statement and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). After back and forth among Councilmembers, he got his wish; the statement now include phrasing that states C3H will “[promote] a more efficient use of resources to reduce homelessness, and meet the needs of the most vulnerable and the needs of the community.” It’s that last phrase “and the needs of the community” that Francisco pressed for. Some homeless advocates say including this isn’t necessary because the vulnerable are already part of the community. Others say, Francisco is part of a contingent of residents and business owners who want the city to pay for either a security guard or more police patrol of lower Milpas area.
“There are people in the community, in particular some of the business owners, who are calling for the city to contrbute more resources to safety patrol,” said Councilmember Murillo. “It’s worthwhile to look at the budget, but I;m hoping that a level of security an comfort can be achieved through volunteer patrols.”
Both Murillo said she voted against the collaborative because she thought Francisco was choosing the wrong forum in which to address changes to the collaborative’s mission statement and MOU. She said, such a change should be taken up at the Policy Council level.
Francisco, along with Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, will represent the city on H3C’s Policy Council. Forth District Supervisor Doreen Farr and Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino will also sit on the Policy Council. Members are being appointed by seniority, according to reports.
The H3C’s large Coordinating Council is already holding monthly meetings, which are closed. Its membership consists of city and county department heads, as well as advocates from nonprofit advocacy boards and volunteers. Jeff Shaffer, of Common Ground Santa Barbara and the Ufizzi Mission Project, and Angela Antenori, will share the so-called “air-traffic controller,” position, acting serving as the liaisons between the Policy Council and Coordinating Council. Northern Santa Barbara County United Way is the fiduciary agent for the new collaborative. Each jurisdiction is expected to pitch in to help support the effort; already, $250,000 has been raised, $75,000 of which came from the City of Santa Barbara’s coffers.