The Isla Vista homeless population has increased by 37 percent since 2016 but decreased by over 30 percent since 2013, according to a countywide homeless census released Wednesday.
The annual spring report, conducted by the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness (C3H), found that a total of 26 homeless people live in Isla Vista. Despite the increase from the last year, Chuck Flacks, executive director of C3H, said the homeless population has remained “remarkably stable” in recent years.
He said because Isla Vista has “a very small sample” of people who are homeless, the 37 percent increase only reflects “one or two” more people coming in to I.V. since 2016.
“We did see a small increase, but it wasn’t a huge increase, and the reality is that things have remained fairly stable,” Flacks said. “Population stays consistent as a result of homeless outreach and housing for the homeless.”
Flacks said the “consistent” numbers are likely a result of homeless outreach organizations in Isla Vista such as the Pescadero Lofts, a complex that opened in 2014 to help keep homeless community members off the streets. The complex currently houses 35 people.
According to Flacks, the Pescadero Lofts are “proof” that through community outreach, counties can reduce the amount of people who are homeless living in an area. The Pescadero Lofts offer counseling for people as well as an alcohol and drug program.
The C3H report also showed that 33 percent of unsheltered people have health insurance, which Flack attributed to the Affordable Care Act.
“Under the Affordable Care Act, we saw a huge expansion of people who are homeless getting access to Medi-Cal,” Flacks said. “Typically, we encourage them to go to primary health providers who accept Medi-Cal, and we’ve had a lot of success, seeing fewer people dying on the streets as a result of that.”
Flacks said, however, that many people who are homeless are worried about how lawmakers at the federal government are proposing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
According to Flacks, Isla Vista is one of the “poorest communities in the county” and said the results of the homeless census do not account for the countless people who are “unstably housed.”
He said the need for affordable housing is “critical” when there are residents couchsurfing or living in doubled and tripled rooms.
“[The census] is a baseline of the total homeless and potentially homeless population in I.V.,” he said. “The biggest problem — and that’s a countywide concern — is access to affordable housing.”
Flacks emphasized that aiding homeless community members can only reduce the homeless population. He said people who are homeless are reminders that “our system is not working” in regard to mental health and alcohol and drug treatment.
“Homeless people are like the canary in the coal mine for our society, and they’re a visible reminder of neglect,” Flacks said. “So when we have more people on the street, it means we’re doing something wrong.”