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Homeless Head Back to Streets for Food

Ramon Dixon found himself an empty bench on State Street hoping someone would help him out.

On the first day since Casa Esperanza closed its day center, many homeless went without a provided lunch, leaving dozens to fend for themselves.

“I survive, collect cans, do what I got to do. But I do it legally,” said Dixon.

He’ll talk to passersby and even sing to them. Dixon said he’ll do what he can, now that the doors of Casa Esperanza are closed to those dropping by for lunch.

“That was like a sanctuary. They treated us well, but now you have to find another means,” he said.

Dixon is just one of many who are returning to the streets.

Richard Ambrosi said he tries to find work, but he always gets the same answer.

“‘We’ll call you, don’t call us.’ One of those reactions. It hurts because you’re trying your darndest to survive,” he said.

Ambrosi wasn’t asking for money on Wednesday afternoon, but he thinks now that the shelter’s day center is closed, panhandling will skyrocket.

“A lot of times too you’ll have one person here, one person there, one person down here and they’re all panhandling,” he said.

It’s something business owners are aware of.

Alan Bleecker of the Milpas Community Association said there will be negative consequences because of the closure, but thinks in the long run, it will be good.

“Hopefully it will encourage those people to get into a sobriety program at Casa and get them to avail themselves of other services there and really focus on sobriety rather than just focusing on getting a meal,” said Bleecker.

The Santa Barbara Downtown Organization is keeping in contact with the police just in case they see a panhandling increase.

“We, as an organization, talk about it in our safety committee meetings. We’re trying to stay on the forefront of it, to make sure it doesn’t catch us by surprise and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, what do we do now?'” said Dave Lombardi, the organization president.

Both business owners and the homeless agree, it will take time to wait and see how it plays out.

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