County is looking for volunteers for the semi-annual one-time homeless count

Every two years, county officials do a one-off count of homeless people. The tally serves as a snapshot of the number of homeless people in Santa Barbara County on any given night, and the results directly affect the level of state and federal funding toward resources for these people.

The Santa Maria / Santa Barbara County Continuum of Care is handling the planning and completion of the count, and this year’s organizers are currently looking for volunteers to help serve as field boots for the count at a time. given of 2022, which is scheduled for Wednesday January 26 from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Jett Black-Maertz is Housing Programs Specialist for Santa Barbara County and Responsible for the Continuum of Care. He has been working in homeless services since 2010 and has been directly involved in the one-off tally since 2018.

“All state and federal funding available to our community is informed by the outcome of the tally,” Black-Maertz said. Government funding sources use this year-over-year data to determine resource funding levels, he said, in addition to helping policymakers plan for housing, shelter and services for people. have the greatest impact.

Volunteers will be trained practically the week before the count and will be guided on the best way to approach and involve the individuals in the area they are responsible for covering. “Overall, volunteers should remember to be respectful and treat everyone they meet with dignity – make eye contact, smile, ask before sitting next to someone and honor them. requests not to participate, ”he said.

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Black-Maertz said the tally is not meant to be invasive and that all individuals are approached and interviewed on a participatory basis. Volunteers are advised to approach, say hello, introduce themselves and explain that they are volunteers for the annual one-night homeless census. Volunteers will also provide “motivation bags”, which include hygiene items, socks and a gift card to a chain of restaurants where they can have a hot meal. “We find that when people are awakened and approached by volunteers, they are likely to answer some or all of the survey questions,” Black-Maertz said.

The county-wide effort covers the entire county and takes into account factors such as age, race, gender, number of times they have been homeless, disability status and several others. In Santa Barbara County, organizers are also trying to determine where people were first homeless and – if they are outside the county – what brought them to Santa Barbara. “In 2020, we found that over 75% of homeless people had their most recent permanent address in Santa Barbara County,” Black-Maertz said. This year’s tally will also ask questions to determine what impact COVID-19 has had on homeless people in the county.

According to the results of 2020, 1,897 individuals were counted, the largest number being counted in the city of Santa Barbara. This number included 1,223 homeless people who were homeless and 674 people living in emergency shelters or transitional housing. In 2017, the official tally was 1,860, with a notable change between people staying and people not staying between 2017 and 2020.

Volunteers must show proof of vaccination and are encouraged to join as a team with people they already interact with regularly. Masks and hand sanitizer are mandatory and will be provided to volunteers. More information can be found at

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