By Emerson Malone
Activists around the south county are teaming together to restart the Homeless Coalition that began in the mid 1980s but lost momentum in the early 90s.
Even though the coalition is in its early stages, attorney and homeless activist Emily Allen is making plans for its future, including a screening two documentaries at the Santa Barbara Public Library.
“One thing that everybody envisions is the need for community action groups, basically, more grassroots-level of organizations,” she said. “We see [the coalition as] being made [up] of people who are homeless, people who have been homeless, [and] people who care about homeless issues.”
The documentaries that will be screened are: “Krystal Freedom” and “Streets of Paradise.” The free event will begin at 1 p.m., Sunday, April 15th in the Faulkner Gallery at the Santa Barbara Public Library. The showings, which philanthropist Sara McCune is helping to fund, will be followed by a discussion. The documentaries will also be screened at the Lucidity Festival in mid-April.
“Krystal,” made in 1988, is a 15-minute documentary titled after the daughter of Nancy McCradie, a long-time homeless activist who was involved in the founding of the original Homeless Coalition.. It’s about Krystal’s childhood growing up in an RV from birth through high school, and more generally about homelessness in Santa Barbara; it was filmed by two Brooks Institute graduates.
“Streets of Paradise” is a 40-minute documentary about the old coalition from the 1980s. The 2003 film was screened multiple times at the recent Santa Barbara International Film Festival where it was well received.
“Right now, I see 18 and 19 year olds … out on the street with their dogs out there,” McCradie said. “[They are] panhandling and doing whatever they can to stay alive. These people cannot afford college. They cannot afford housing. What is it that they’re going to do?”
McCradie left her position on the Board of Directors of Casa Esperanza Homeless Center to give the homeless people a chance to participate in the executive decision-making at the shelter. Larry Hulse, one of Esperanza’s residents, took her seat. This way, McCradie said, the homeless will have a stronger voice in the running of things. “Unless every man, child and woman is housed in this country, I don’t want to quit,” she said. “I don’t want to get away from the homeless issue. I want to stick with it and see if we can keep on getting better. We got to get better socially. We have to make friends among people who we are afraid of.”
The South Coast Homeless Advisory Committees (SCHCs), Bringing Our Community Home (BOCH) and Common Ground Santa Barbara (CGSB) will soon merge into a single, large organization to fight homelessness in Santa Barbara County.
With the merger, there will be a need for organizations that can help public policy by making recommendations on a range of issues, Allen said.
The coalition’s objective will be to identify and prioritize obstacles and issues homeless people face here and then present them to elected officials..
One of Allen’s proposals for the new coalition is to survey the homeless population in Santa Barbara again, to isolate the health problems and gaps in services. Last year, as part of the countywide Common Ground campaign, five hundred volunteers interviewed people sleeping outside and asked about their physical and mental health.
The results were used to create a “vulnerability index” which detailed the specific issues facing homeless individuals and determined who was most likely to die on the streets.
“Instead of assuming what the issues are, we can talk to people and figure out what issues are the first priorities,” Allen said.