IMPACT
01/25/2011 02:30 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Santa Barbara Funds Bench Relocation To Deter Homelessness On State Street

Santa Barbara, Calif. officials may not have figured out how to resolve homelessness, but they are finding ways to hide the beach community's poorest residents.

LA Times reported that Santa Barbara will allocate $50,000 to reorganize street benches with the motive of deterring homeless activity on State Street, a popular shopping destination.

Along with removing the backs of some benches to make loitering uncomfortable, other benches will be moved 90 degrees so homeless are less visible to passersby.

Santa Barbara officials say that they have exhausted efforts to deter panhandling on State Street. The LA Times reported that City Council member Dale Francisco called other methods ineffectual.

Francisco told the Times,

"This is the kind of step that people who want to do something about the problem have been forced to in desperation. For a long time, political actors have been against doing anything to reduce the number of homeless people on the street."

Andrew Devore, a Santa Barbara resident, told The Daily Sound that the decision sounded like "a waste of money."

The Daily Sound also interviewed Paul Vincent Johnson, a homeless man who often panhandles on State Street. He said that although he didn't agree with the decision, he had his own ideas on how to cope with the changes to the benches.

Johnson said,

"I expect them to be moved whether I like it or not. But I've got my own chair. I could just face whichever direction I want."

This strategy comes in on the heels of a recent federal deadline extension for homeless advocates in Santa Barbara.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development requires Santa Barbara County to provide a count of area homeless at the beginning of every year. However, the Santa Barbara chapter of national nonprofit Common Ground worked with county officials to extend the deadline.

This way, the Santa Barbara branch of Common Ground can take part in the national Vunerability Index Survey starting Feb. 28.

The survey is a part of Common Ground's "100,000 Homes" campaign which aims to collect data gauging the level of crisis homeless face in each community. When lobbying for the extension, Common Ground volunteers argued that the additional data would prove more beneficial than the headcount that HUD required, reported The Santa Barbara Independent.

Rob Fredericks, a volunteer co-leader of the Santa Barbara chapter, told the Independent that his organization will continue to advocate for area homeless with the "100,000 Homes" campaign.

"Now our community can proceed with the planning and hard work to prepare for registry week, and as we endeavor to move folks into housing with necessary services in place, in the weeks and months following registry week."

Common Ground's campaign aims to help move 100,000 of the nation's most vulnerable homeless into housing by July of 2013.

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