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On-ramps and off-ramps see influx homeless camps during pandemic

Freeway on and off-ramps see influx of homeless encampments
Offramp camp
Tracy Lehr

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.-On one side of the Garden Street off-ramp to Santa Barbara visitors see colorful trumpet vines, on the other side they see transient camps.

Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber president Kristen Miller said there has been no quick fix during the pandemic.

"When visitors come to Santa Barbara and they see the sign on the freeway that sends them to our Garden St. visitor center, that is one of the paths that is the most impacted by encampments. So the visual blight and the heartbreak of seeing that in our hometown, it makes it look like we don't care, or we don't know, or we don't know how to fix this," said Miller.

In addition to tents, there is a backyard barbecue, fishing poles, bicycle parts, grocery carts, empty bottles and discarded needle caps.

There are similar scenes at Laguna Street and other on and off-ramps.

Orange bags full of discarded items show an effort to clean up the area.

Mayor Cathy Murillo said, "The first thing that the city does is make contact with people, get them services, or move them into motel rooms."

Murillo said Caltrans and city crews will remove debris this Thursday and Friday, but there are still people coming and going from the 101 on and off-ramps.

Santa Barbara Police Sgt. E. Ragsdale said they are limited in their ability to help move the transient population.

The acting public information officer said, "We are working in conjunction with environmental services for the city of Santa Barbara as well as the Santa Barbara Fire Department.

The pandemic has delayed action.

"Right now our main concern is COVID infection rates. Asking transients and or cleaning up homeless encampments displaces these people and can further spread COVID within our community," said Sgt. Ragsdale.

Miller said, "These people are clearly in crisis, but we feel a great responsibility to recover our economy and our jobs and our communities and somehow be able to address this homelessness crisis."

The chamber is working with the government and favors hotel housing in scattered locations.

The mayor said City Net has moved some people into hotels.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here


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