SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The city of Santa Barbara has unveiled an improved online form that allows residents to report encampments or people experiencing homelessness who are in need, in a non-emergency.
City leaders hope the improved tool leads to more efficient tracking of camps and unhoused individuals across the area. It can be accessed via the city's website under "How Do I," and then "Report," by clicking "Encampment."
The form can also be accessed directly here.
René Eyerly, the city's Environmental Services Manager, says the form has existed for a couple of years, but was recently updated about six weeks ago. People can now report unhoused individuals in need in addition to just homeless encampments.
“This web form allows all that information to come into one place,” Eyerly said. “And then our team can quickly assess and prioritize our response back out to it. It’s the best way to communicate with us.”
The city's Environmental Services Division will receive requests for encampment cleanups, while homelessness agency City Net partners with the city to provide outreach to those experiencing homelessness.
Reports made in areas not under the city's jurisdiction will be sent to the proper responsible agency.
The comes as the pandemic makes homelessness outreach more challenging.
“There [are] CDC guidelines where, really, the priority is to have those who are unhoused shelter in place as much as possible,” Eyerly said.
She explains that if an encampment becomes too much of a public nuisance or safety risk, the city then does “need to go in and either do trash clean-up, and then sometimes actually manage the entire encampment.”
Fires are also in focus after multiple blazes were sparked near an encampment alongside Highway 101 in Goleta last week.
As temperatures drop, more warming fires are likely at encampments, which could lead to additional dangerous flare-ups.
“It is an additional burden, particularly on our fire department to be monitoring the encampments to make sure that they’re safe,” Eyerly said. “And so we certainly expect to be doing more work and more engagement in some of these areas.”
Emergencies, such as an active encampment fire, should still be reported by calling 911.