Homelessness, a burnt barn and infectious blood rounded out the discussion at Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District’s meeting Thursday night.
The IVRPD recently instated a policy, which mandates the disposal of belongings in community parks or property if they are left unattended. Previously, the district would store property for an indefinite amount of time.
Isla Vista resident Chris Omer raised the issue during the public comment period, saying that the IVRPD needs to look at the way the policy affects the homeless community.
“I know of several instances where a person’s stuff was just taken,” he said. “It makes it really difficult for [homeless people] to try and get any personal business taken care of.”
IVRPD General Manager Derek Johnson said the policy was implemented due to a lack of feasible alternatives. Johnson said the IVRPD’s former policy of storing property found in the park became too much of a problem.
“We used to offer a cubby system behind the Red Barn. But it became the site of drug dealings, violence, and it wasn’t effective. The barn was burned down by someone who tried to store a hot barbecue,” he said. “We used to store some of the stuff here. People would come in and rant and rave, angry that we took their stuff. Someone even tried to infect members of our staff with disease by spreading their infected blood on their belongings.”
The public should address the problem of homelessness, Omer said, instead of relying solely on governing bodies.
“We need to start doing things on the community level,” he said. “We can’t just put Band-Aids on problems; we need to really find solutions to these issues.”
Ariana Katovich, vice chair of IVRPD, said the board could take few actions to alleviate issues of homelessness in I.V. without the county’s support.
“We need to work with Santa Barbara Human Resources to initiate dialogue and alleviate some of the pressure off IVRPD,” she said. “Not enough attention is paid to Isla Vista by the county about this serious problem. I want to direct a committee to sit and talk about the issue and form an action plan.”
The next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 15, at the IVRPD building, located at 961 Embarcadero del Mar.