Several county authorities and organizations attended a meeting last Thursday to announce a new plan to eliminate homelessness within the county.

The new collaboration, Common Ground Santa Barbara, will generate a profile of local transients through efforts including a countywide survey running from Feb. 28 to March 2. Aid workers will also compile interviews with transients. 23rd District Congressional Representative Lois Capps, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and representatives from Common Ground Santa Barbara presented the information at the Santa Barbara Public Library’s Faulkner Gallery.

According to Capps, the information will allow the county to more effectively allocate benefits and provide housing for those most in need of immediate help.

“Homelessness is the single challenge that requires the most dedication and the most will,” Capps said. “The recession has only intensified what was already a chronic problem and more and more of our friends and neighbors are struggling to stay afloat. Last year alone, 36 of our friends died on the street.”

Although the county has previously addressed homeless issues, Capps said the latest project is a fresh achievement.

“Common Ground Santa Barbara is the latest innovative effort in a long record of success in our community and an exciting way to change things as a team,” Capps said.

Santa Barbara County’s Director of Housing and Community Development David Matson said the strategy addresses aspects of homelessness the county has struggled with the most.

“This approach will enable us to solve our biggest challenge: getting an accurate picture of homelessness in the community through the use of the vulnerability index,” Matson said.

Schneider said the project provides the county with an angle that does not currently exist in its homelessness approach.

“We are not going to set policy based on anecdotal evidence like has been the case too often in the past,” Schneider said. “We want data and facts.”

In addition to providing a unique approach to reducing homelessness, Schneider said the plan provides an opportunity for the entire community to work together.

“No matter where we come from or how much our political ideas differ, homelessness is an issue we can all agree on,” Schneider said. “The community does not care who takes cares of the issues, as long as those issues are taken care of.”