SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, Calif. - Honors as part of a graduation ceremony, have been handed out to those helping the homeless in programs throughout Santa Barbara County coordinated by AmeriCorps.
The efforts were wide ranging including those who work directly on the streets, and others who are in services that can provide health, employment or housing aid.
They gathered in the clubhouse at Cachuma Lake, and brought in workers from Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Lompoc, Buellton, Santa Ynez and Santa Maria.
Many members of the honored group have specific skills to connect to those in need and determine the best course of action to restore a quality of life.
Some are trained in conflict resolutions, supportive funding sources, housing, child care, veterans services, and reentry after serving time
As part of the luncheon ceremony, special certificates were handed out by Superevisor Steve Lavagnino, Supervisor Das Williams, and Carson Link with the office of State Senator Monqiue Limon (D-19th District).
AmeriCorps members serve county wide at these partner agencies:The Sanctuary Centers, Good Samaritan Shelter, SB County Public Defender’s, Probation, Report and Resource Center, LAGS Recovery Center, Dept. of Social Services, Housing Authority of Santa Barbara County, Home for Good Agency, YMCA Youth and Family Services
Program Director Katie Hughes said to the group, "I am so proud of all the work that you have done and the impact you make in the community every single day."
Decision makers say these days there's more of a political will, along with the funding necessary to make a difference with homeless solutions.
The AmeriCorps workers and the United Way have been called vital in the process to understand the needs and find solutions.
Santa Barbara County Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said, "there's only one way to fix it and that is to go get in the trenches and meet that person and find out what their circumstances are. That doesn't happen without you,".
Lompoc City Councilmember Jeremy Ball said, his understanding came from people on the streets and from going to the sites in person. "It really is about getting out and understanding what is happening in our riverbed. What's happening in our streets, in the middle of the night. "
AmeriCorps Worker George Crowder says he gives the homeless a sense of hope when he reaches out to them. "I make sure they understand there are plenty of people out there to help them and it is not a situation that can't be overcome."
The Cachuma Lake gathering of outreach workers and their government partners helped them to interact with others doing similar work .
Victoria Salzar collaborates with the Public Defenders department and AmeriCorps. "I actually got to see the struggles and communicate with these people and really understand what it is that they need."
At the Department of Social Services Gaby Rigonati said, "we work with homeless families address the barriers that make it difficult for them to find and sustain housing and send them to different resources and ultimately help them to get housed."
Even though a sweeping solution hasn't been found, and many first time homeless people are being reported, there have been success stories involving AmeriCorps and its partners.
Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams said, "there are more people getting services and more people being housed than ever. Hundreds per year."