'Project Healthy Neighbors' Fair Helps Santa Barbara Homeless

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Did you know that the largest mobile medical clinic in Southern California
serves the homeless community? The fifth annual "Project Healthy Neighbors" fair, held at Casa Esperanza Homeless Center, provides a wide range of health and counseling services for Santa Barbara's homeless population.

According to Imelda Loza, associate executive director of Casa Esperanza, the goal of "Project Healthy Neighbors" is to prevent disease, illness and death within the homeless population. Loza said this objective is especially important considering that 26 homeless people have died in Santa Barbara within the last year.

Over 100 volunteers turned out to give assistance to the homeless, reports The Daily Nexus. Services include drug and alcohol counseling, haircuts, dental hygiene and veterans' resources. Neighborhood clinics and local organizations such as UCSB Student Health Outreach contributed their efforts to promote health among the homeless.

One of the most innovative forms of aid was "survival packs" created by Families United to Nurture Dreams. The packs consist of backpacks filled with shirts, socks, sweatshirts, ponchos, food and hygiene products, and over 400 were distributed last year.

The event draws the ire of some critics, who believe it encourages out-of-town homeless people to relocate to Santa Barbara for the benefits, but the increase in homelessness is believed to be due to the financial crisis.

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