The plight of the homeless population on the Central Coast and its impact on local communities brought problem solvers and stakeholders together for a special meeting of the Lompoc City Council Tuesday night.
Mental health, substance abuse and addiction remain the key issues behind homelessness on the Central Coast, as well as just plain bad luck, but there’s growing recognition solutions may come from new, innovative ideas and regional collaboration.
Rick Skaggs still struggles to accept the harsh reality that he’s homeless.
“It’s been a pretty humbling experience”, Skaggs says, “it has a way of stripping down your pride, and getting rid of it.”
Skaggs and his homeless travel companion Joseph Welch plan each and every day, where they will trek and ultimately camp overnight, trying not to draw the attention of local law enforcement.
“I’ve run across quite a few people who actually do care”, Skaggs says.
“There’s a lot more people in the river (bed)” said Lompoc Police Chief Pat Walsh at Monday night’s special City Council meeting about the growing homeless population in the city and in the Lompoc Valley, “its all illegal camping.”
The Lompoc City Council convened the special meeting for stakeholders and other concerned residents to address the various issues involved with the local homeless population.
“One of my sayings is a hand up, not a hand out, its very important that we don’t enable them”, said Mark Ashamalla with Transitions Mental Health in San Luis Obispo County, “I say them because there’s so many categories of homelessness that you shouldn’t put them all into one category.”
“Our goal is to get them back into society, obviously to get them housed and back to work, and be a productive part of our society”, Ashamall told the City Council, “its a tough gig but, there’s a lot good people, willing to work with us, I’ve seen a lot success stories.”
“There’s a couple of people walking around town that are sober and housed and happy and living a good life”, Chief Walsh told the City Council, “so there are success stories.”
Rick Skaggs is hoping to turn his life around soon, with a little luck and some help.
“You know, get some of the personal issues squared away”, Skaggs said Monday afternoon as he pondered where he was going to spend the night, “outside of that, its being able to find a good paying job that will support me and my family so we can get things back together and get it rolling again.”
Others participating in the discussion at the City Council Monday night included staff from the County of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara County Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann.