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Santa Barbara - South County

Hotel rooms fill up with people displaced by fire-prone encampment cleanups

Hotel rooms fill up with people displaced by encampment cleanups

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – People who used to live in encampments in fire-prone areas of Santa Barbara are being offered temporary housing and services in a local hotel.

The bridge housing project is being operated by the nonprofit City Net.

City Net President Brad Fieldhouse said, "As of today we've got 19 individuals who have relocated from those encampments and have been brought here to this bridge housing project. It does cost money, it costs money to rent hotels, but the good news is we hope to have good outcomes on the back end of this."

San Roque neighbors have reservations about the plan.

"My feeling is that homeless people have to live somewhere and everybody says, 'not in my backyard,' I guess it has to be in somebody's backyard," Darlene Munk said.

She said she is glad they didn't put it in the old Sears parking lot.

"I'm worried about people wondering the streets, and I'm hoping there is nobody violent there, you know, I have some concerns."

Ernie Salomon has been a vocal critic. The former radio and community TV host has questions about cost, liability and local control.

"I don't think it is going to solve the fire danger because there is always somebody left that is not going to be in that hotel. The costs of the hotel is far outweighed by what it is going to accomplish," Salomon said.

He believes the solution should be handled by the Federal government rather than the city.

The Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to spend at least $1.6 million on the project that will be covered by state grants and Measure C funds.

"That location has been part of Operation Room Key for a year without complaints," ayor Cathy Murillo said.

That project was started by the state during the beginning of the pandemic.

"We have to spend money on this. It is essentially a makeshift shelter, there’s not enough shelter beds, so it needs to be staffed, and programmed and that costs money. We are helping people get off the street, we are helping them address their problems, and that will help the whole community."

Mayor Murillo said there are more public housing (Section 8) vouchers to help people in need of permanent housing, but the city must now find rentals willing to take them.

Melinda Orlick said she is hoping to find housing and wished the hotel would offer her and her husband a room. They have been living in their car. Orlick said finding a job without an address is tough. She hopes to reach out to City Net in case a room opens up.


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Tracy Lehr

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

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