Last year the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness (C3H) coordinated biennial count revealed there were 219 homeless people in Lompoc. Compared to the 2015 count, the numbers increased by 89 percent, and increased by 111 percent compared to 2013 figures. So, the city’s homeless population has doubled in four years.
Meanwhile, Santa Maria only saw a 4-percent increase, and Santa Barbara’s decreased by 24 percent from the 2011 count. It is ironic that their loss in raw numbers was almost what the increase was in Lompoc.
At about the same time, politicians were wringing their hands trying to figure out what to do. Last week they continued blowing rhetoric at the issue, as politicians frequently do.
The City Council did decide to do something about the 60 to 100 homeless estimated to live in the riverbed. The Record reported, “Mayor Bob Lingl and council members Victor Vega and Jenelle Osborne each offered vocal support for having the Police Department address the riverbed issues.” How, remains a question at this point.
Flushing these folks out of their campsites may aggravate the problem on city streets. Besides, they are in the county area, not within city limits.
The other day I saw a homeless person sitting across the street from a popular fast-food restaurant near his homemade cart and bike with some signs asking for money. He wanted either direct or cash donations for “bud.” In this case it wasn’t for beer. Bud is the street term for cannabis.
Is this the image of Lompoc we want to project to the outside world?
As I looked at this guy I asked myself, what program would help this person become a productive member of society? I am sure he will take anything you give him — money, Electronic Benefit cards, free health care, meals and sleep in the shelters. But, is this really helping him? It’s doubtful, because folks like him don’t really want to follow the rules in the first place.
The answer seems to always involve more money for more programs to help the homeless. But, if the government and privately-operated, nonprofit support groups just throw money at it, then the population will increase again at the next count.
Some homeless people will respond positively to any help given, but scores of others are the typical face of the homeless people we see every day in front of businesses, at commercial driveway exits and sleeping on the streets in Lompoc and other cities. We must accept the fact that no matter how many programs are provided, this problem cannot be solved, but it can be controlled.
Government-sponsored programs and/or policies designed to help the homeless could include mandatory enrollment in sober-living programs/facilities; requiring residents work maintaining sober-living facilities and shelters; and drug/alcohol testing prior to receipt of monthly benefits.
Next is a city ordinance banning transients from openly soliciting anything in front of commercial businesses. The public should be informed that providing these folks with cash is the easiest way to increase the number of homeless in Lompoc and isn’t really helping anyone.
Eventually, politicians will have to stop talking about this issue and start a tangible effort to rid the streets of unwashed beggars soliciting “bud” and anything else you’ll give them. It’s past time to start requiring some effort from these folks to help themselves out of their rut.
Receiving aid should not be a career path, but a short-term solution to their problems.