Collaborating to Combat Homelessness in Santa Barbara County
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“The world is full of complex social problems for which no reliable, cost-effective solutions have been found. Homelessness is not one of them.”
– Rosanne Haggerty (President & CEO, Community Solutions)
That quote is becoming somewhat of a motto in Santa Barbara County among those engaged in the quest to reduce homelessness. And in Santa Barbara County, that motto has come alive through the creation of a unique collaborative among numerous local government, nonprofit, private sector, faith-based organizations, as well as numerous other stakeholders.
Called the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness – or C3H for short – its purpose statement is clear: “Harness all resources available to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness, as well as minimize the impacts of homelessness in Santa Barbara County.”
Where once a variety of agencies and organizations tackled homelessness separately, they now work together through C3H; this has increased efficiency and reduced duplication.
The driving force behind the Collaborative was former Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr, who C3H members affectionately refers to as its “mother.” Supervisor Steve Lavagnino explains how when his former colleague first approached him about the concept of C3H, she used the analogy of an air traffic controller to “get everyone laser focused” and ensure that efforts were not being duplicated.
Chuck Flacks serves as C3H’s Executive Director; he’s proud of the positive impact the organization’s work is having. And he knows that success is the result of everyone coming together.
“We are a collaborative. We couldn’t exist without the cooperation of the county government, the cities, other partners … All of these stakeholders are critical to identifying people who are homeless and develop plans to get them housed and get them supportive services,” he says.
Local government officials in Santa Barbara County also tout the Collaborative’s important role. Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider says it’s become more than the sum of its parts. ”Coming together as a community and bringing what each component can work on to their best capability … when you see success, there’s nothing like it,” she says.
C3H staff knows that every homeless individual has a different background and may have different needs. “The more we can figure out what happened along the way, the more we can put the pieces back together using the resources in the community,” explains Luke Barrett, C3H regional coordinator.
Supervisor Lavagnino gives credit to the “boots on the ground” who are working with the homeless and reporting back to the Collaborative on each individual’s needs. It is then easier to match people with the necessary services.
“For what we have been able to accomplish is a testament to what the people are doing out in the streets. This is a place where you can actually see change happening,” he says.
Sara Grasso is one of those people. As a homeless outreach practitioner for Santa Barbara County’s Behavioral Wellness Department, she works with the local homeless on their own turf. She has seen firsthand the limitations and obstacles any one agency has in working with the homeless. C3H is changing that.
“The collaboration with different providers allows us to move people in the direction of wellness,” she says. “Coming together with a common goal we are able to move past barriers that used to exist.”
The data shows that C3H is making a difference; more than 85 percent of the people housed by the Collaborative are still housed two years later. Much of this is the result of an efficient data system that tracks individual’s needs and services they are receiving.
“Everyone in the community has worth, and we are going to do what it takes to ensure they get what they need to have a healthy life,” Barrett says.
Santa Barbara County’s Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness was honored as part of the 2016 CSAC Challenge Awards, which recognize the most innovative best practices developed by California Counties.