Posted by toni-s on:
Santa Barbara League of Women Voters to Host October Community Forum: Restorative Justice Not Jail for the Homeless? Wednesday, Oct. 19, 12-2 p.m., Louise Lowry Davis Community Center Free and open to the public. How to provide appropriate, cost effective, and efficient supportive services to the homeless in Santa Barbara--with a focus on restorative justice rather than jail time. That will be the focus of a panel discussion hosted by the League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara. Panelists of local experts and stakeholders will include: Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown Ann Detrick, Ph.D., Director, Santa Barbara County Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services (ADMHS) Doreen Farr, Santa Barbara County Third District Supervisor Jeff Shaffer, Common Ground Campaign Leader On Sept. 13, the Santa Barbara City Council unanimously endorsed the consolidation of three of the primary agencies addressing homelessness issues in the County. The combined organization of Bringing Our Community Home (BOCH), Common Ground Santa Barbara, and the three regional Homeless Advisory Committees will be organized under a Leadership Council of elected officials, the composition of which is yet to be determined. The region-wide consolidation is expected to allow for a more coordinated effort in addressing the complex spectrum of homelessness issues, provide a more comprehensive continuum of care, and help save money while improving the status of homeless individuals and families, particularly the chronically homeless. This decision comes on the heels of the 2010-2011 Santa Barbara County Civil Grand Jury report entitled, “HOMELESS MENTALLY ILL INDIGENT RECIDIVISM: This Recycling Is Not Good For The County.” The report investigates the particular experiences of a target group considered most vulnerable to recycling in and out of jail, those who are mentally ill, possibly substance-abusing, uninsured, indigent, and homeless. The report considers the various laws, public programs, non-profits, and collaborative efforts engaged in homeless issues. While recognizing their individual contributions to addressing homelessness issues, the report criticizes their failure to effectively coordinate services and prevent unnecessary costs to the public, and undue suffering among the target homeless populations. The Grand Jury Report found that the annual estimated cost (both public and private spending) to respond to and address chronic homelessness currently exceeds $12 million, while there does not appear to be an official estimate for the cost of cycling the chronic homeless mentally ill, and indigent in and out of jail. According to the report, there are over 50 agencies (both public and private non-profit) providing services and support to the mentally ill, indigents, homeless, and jail recidivists. Among the Report’s recommendations are: That a comparison be made of the current total yearly costs of the incarcerated mentally-ill, indigent and homeless, to the estimated total yearly cost of providing housing and supportive service to these individuals. Also finding no centralized, coordinating body with authority to galvanize sufficient support to effectively serve the target group, the report recommends that the Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Health Services (ADMHS) take leadership and responsibility for this coordination. In addition, in May, Common Ground Santa Barbara released the results of its comprehensive survey of the homeless undertaken in 2010 to identify the 100 most vulnerable, and to develop appropriate, individualized paths to housing and supportive services for each. Its finding reinforces the urgency of the need and includes: “high self-reported rates of mental illness and substance use; significant levels of disease burden, both chronic conditions and infectious diseases; and high levels of illnesses specific to homelessness, such as weather related impacts and exposure to violence.” The forum is free and open to the public. People are invited to bring a brown bag lunch, although some refreshments will be provided. Parking is free at the community center, which is located at De la Vina and Victoria St. Thanks to iheartfishtown for the photo.