More than 500 volunteers fanned out across Santa Barbara County early Thursday morning for a count of those living on the street.
It’s all to get a snapshot of the homeless population which then helps guide important resources and money.
In Lompoc, the count comes just four months after dozens of homeless were evicted from the Santa Ynez Riverbed.
Along Cordoba Ave. and Aviation Dr., numerous cars and RVs lined the streets.
“We’ve been out here for about a year and a half,” said Lareesa McElligott, who lives in one of those vehicles. “We decided we were going to live in our van once the temporary job ended.”
Hidden homelessness is growing on the streets behind the businesses near W. Central Ave., according to new Mayor Jenelle Osborne.
“These streets are not designed for being lived on,” Osborne said.
The city has its sights set on some new options to provide a safe haven for the homeless. It has put together a Safe Parking Ordinance that will allow homeless to park and sleep overnight.
The location is still being nailed down.
“One of the locations that is up for discussion is the City Hall parking lot,” Osborne explained. “It is right next to the police department which creates a safe location for these individuals.”
The homeless count is done every other year.
Northern Santa Barbara County United Way says in 2017, there were 1,489 homeless counted throughout the county with 219 in Lompoc.
In 2015, there were 1,454 counted, meaning a slight increase during the last count.
“(This year) we’re hoping less, obviously because we’ve housed people,” said Darrell Tullis of the United Way of Santa Barbara County. “I think ten of the people that were in the riverbed actually got reunited with their homes.”
McElligott also has some good news.
“I have a new job starting in February and we just found out yesterday, actually, that we’re going to be going into a house February 4th,” McElligott said. “To finally be in a house again is an amazing thing. This has done what we needed it to do but just having a home again is going to mean everything.”
One of the volunteers who met McElligott and her boyfriend, who is part of the non-profit Planting-A-Seed, told the couple they’d furnish their home.
“Mostly people come out and honk their horn and yell at you, profanities, and people don’t think a lot of the homeless and most of the people out here are just people trying to survive and so when there’s groups that come out and actually want to help and do good, it makes you have some faith in humanity again,” McElligott explained.
The Safe Parking Ordinance will most likely be on the city council agenda sometime next month, according to Osborne.
The results of the homeless count will be available by the end of March.