The Isla Vista Community Services District is distributing meals, first-aid kits and additional services to houseless residents to provide relief during the coronavirus pandemic, as normally present resources are running thin.
On Wednesdays and Fridays from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the new Isla Vista Community Center, workers operate the distribution center to help the houseless access government benefits resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (C.A.R.E.S.) Act, which includes $1,200 checks to those earning under $75,000 per year.
The most immediate need that the program is addressing is the meal distribution, according to Spencer Brandt, board president of the Isla Vista Community Services District (I.V. CSD).
“There’s just not as much food around in the community as there is when we’ve got a full town and economy that is operating in a normal way, so hunger is a real issue,” Brandt said.
The CSD’s distribution program receives 125 food donations from McDonald’s and 75 food donations from Lunchbox, a Santa Barbara restaurant, amounting to 200 meals per day, according to Brandt.
The program, an expanded version of the I.V. CSD’s partnership with Northern Santa Barbara County United Way — the local branch of a community service nonprofit emphasizing houselessness assistance — previously used the small I.V. CSD office space near the community center to streamline houseless residents into the coordinated entry program, which aims to house houseless residents, according to Emily Allen, director of homeless and veterans impact initiatives at Northern Santa Barbara County United Way.
The program expanded to the community center to accommodate social distancing regulations and provide additional services, according to Brandt.
“What folks can do at the Resource Center is obtain meals, care packages that include face coverings, hand sanitizer. Additionally, they can access our Wi-Fi if they need to check their email,” Brandt said, adding that houseless individuals could also use the Wi-Fi to file to receive a stimulus check.
The care packages contain bottled water, soap, toothpaste and other cleanliness tools, according to Allen.
Other local food distribution services, such as the Miramar Food Pantry and the Associated Students Food Bank, are operating under decreased hours, which increases the need for additional food provisions, according to Allen.
“A lot of the different meal shares that happened in the community stopped operating. And so pretty early on, one of the first things that we started to do was put together prepared meal boxes and just add non-perishable food for people,” Allen said.
The nature of houselessness, with precarious living situations and uneven access to necessities, makes it extremely difficult for houseless individuals to follow shelter-in-place orders or social distancing guidelines, according to Jonathan Abboud, the I.V. CSD’s general manager.
Abboud added that the I.V. CSD is still looking for additional partners to help provide services for I.V.’s houseless residents, who he said are “affected the most” by the pandemic, but have the “least resources during this time.”