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Homeless outreach brings focused services to weekly location in Santa Barbara’s Castillo street lot

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - There are several ways to reach the homeless in Santa Barbara including hitting the streets and trying to locate them one by one in camps. A site downtown, however, brings a variety of services to one convenient area.

It's called the Neighborhood Navigation Center. It has been operating about a year but more and more the word is getting out to those in need who are transient, living on the edge of homelessness and have urgent needs.

The location is in the parking lot of Castillo Street at Carrillo Street.

The area has been well traveled by the homeless for years, including areas along the freeway and Mission creek. It's also close enough to the waterfront to drawn those hanging out there to come up for services.

The parking area is owned by the city and has been designated for a future affordable housing project.

Organizers say one of the big advantages to the area is the Showers of Blessing portable shower service. It is set up for three hours.

Doctors Without Walls is also on hand for personal medical check ups.

Also taking part in the weekly visit, are mental health experts from the BeWell unit, City Net, SBACT, and partners who provide meals. (The group C.A.R.E.4 Paws provides help for those with animals on Thursday at Alameda Park.)

The city of Santa Barbara has been supporting sites where multiple services are in one location, rather than going camp by camp to locate those living on the streets.

It is also expected to ease the impacts on multiple neighborhoods.

"They are actually starting  to migrate people away  from either a problem spot or just homelessness in general," said City Councilman Mike Jordan. He says having the organizations together is "saving everyone from having to wandering out and finding the homeless one at a time." Jordan says one or more of the services is providing a draw for those in need. From there conversations begin.

"We have all the resources in one place to start working away at breaking down the barriers and starting on the path to housing," he said.

Donna Shilling took a shower and looks forward to two showers a week. "Because you can wash up good for the next following Thursday from Tuesday and that way you are good for the week," she said. She comes down from Lompoc where she is staying but previously she was living in her car in Santa Barbara until it was destroyed by a fire. She commutes now in the Clean Air Express for $7.00 each way.

Kayla Petersen with SBACT (Santa Barbara Alliance for Community Transformation ) says more services for those who are addicted to drugs will make a difference in saving lives and help with issues in the community. "We need more support for people who want to come out of substances and who don't want to self medicate for some of the things that they are experiencing . I want to see more substance abuse outreach."

The city is also using this site to reduce the impacts of homelessness on the downtown business corridor and on locations such as the public library which has had, in recent years, many calls for service that require police. Security has been added to help maintain safety there.

One volunteer who used to help those in need in Isla Vista and Goleta, comes with clothing.

Sandy Logsdon says she gets them from, "friends, family,   church and people just drop things off and they have to be washed and clean so it's just fun." She says it makes a difference when someone has clean clothing especially underwear and socks.

Petersen says she continues to hit the streets to make contact with those who are not showing up. "If I see someone one and I say hmmm.  I think you are a good candidate for a conversation for behavior wellness to be able to invite them here as a hub as a consistent location."

Organizers would also like to see two more sites. One on the lower east side and one in the upper State Street area, if there is a need that can be served.

"We are just waiting to see more clearer  signs of success with this and the funding sources are out there," said Jordan.  

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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