Homeless in the American Riviera

Santa Barbara, Calif. – David Clements, his wife Jennifer and four kids have one of the best views in this seaside town known as the American Riviera. But that’s about all they have left.

“I guess you could say that we are temporarily homeless,” Clements says, hesitating to use the word homeless.

The Clements family lives in a RV that is parked near the beach here. They became homeless nearly two years ago after the house they rented in nearby Ojai was sold and they were forced out. At the time, they didn’t have any jobs or savings. Luckily, they had the RV.

All across America, homeless advocates report an increase in the number of people on the streets, an early indication of the economic difficulties.

In Santa Barbara, one homeless advocacy group has come up with solution to deal with the newly homeless. It’s illegal here to sleep in a car on a public street. So the New Beginnings Counseling Center created the safe parking program. It provides homeless people who have cars or RVs a safe parking spot to sleep for the night. The 60 spots are in private lots, so the homeless must leave during the day.

So each morning, before the kids are even awake, Clements attaches his trailer to his white van and drags it across the street to the public beach lot, where the family stays every day.

Other than the view, it’s a difficult life. They get their water from drinking fountains, using a homemade funnel. Food stamps and donations provide enough food for the family. Sometimes they get too much and they pass out the extra food, using it as a chance to share their deep Christian faith and proselytize to other homeless.

And these days, there are more and more homeless in Santa Barbara.

“It’s as bad as it’s ever been,” says Nancy Kapp, a case worker for the safe parking program. Kapp says that last year the program’s 60 parking spots were only three-quarters full. Now there’s a waiting list of 40 people.

Kapp said that 70 percent of the people in her program are chronically homeless, but she’s seeing an increasing number of people like the Clements family, who are homeless for the first time.

The days of homelessness for the Clements might soon be coming to an end. David heard about a job in Texas, drilling for natural gas. As soon as they can raise the gas money, they’re going to hit the road.

By Travis Fox  |  October 11, 2008; 6:47 PM ET  | Category:  In-Depth
Previous: The Road Trip Begins! | Next: The Irony of Billboards


This is where I think our immigration issues come in play. How many jobs in Santa Barbara are given to illegal aliens. While I don't like to choose between God's people, I feel that if we do not honor the law and limit the jobs we give to aliens, our own citizens will suffer and go hungry. This man has to travel 3,000 miles to find a job and who knows if his van will take the hardship. He even has to save money for gas. Now is the time to truly enforce the illegal alien laws and explain to them that they cannot come into America without permission and that our citizens here need those jobs. I think these people should be able to work in Santa Barbara, and many of those employers in this area should cut loose the illegals and offer jobs to those people in those parking lots!

Then Mexico ought to get their act together and take care of their people. Either that, or America ought to give Mexico statehood and run the show!


Posted by: CCR1 | October 13, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

In Santa Barbara, we have enough challenges with local people who sleep in their vehicles and on the streets. We are full, with no room at the inn nor on the street nor in the church and public car lots.

This is amazing that national news media, including WaPo now, keep reporting this condition like somehow homelessness is so novel and freakish that even Santa Barbara has it. ALL cities in America that do not routinely freeze have a problem with homelessness.

The median price for a home in Santa Barbara area is close to $1 million. Please, do not move here; we have enough local people whose families have been here for generations who already cannot afford a home.

Coming here is not a solution to homelessness by individuals. No jobs exist for low-wage workers, as that market is saturated, partially because the Federal government indeed does not enforce existing immigration laws.

Posted by: DavidPritchett | October 13, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

We have a problem with legal aliens and offshoring. India has taken over 200,000 IT jobs, thanks to the help of EDS, IBM, and the Bush administration. This creates a supply and demand problem and makes US citizens unemployable. We need to enforce the laws we have on illegals and limit work visas and penalize corporations for offshoring jobs. The root cause of all out problems, I think, is unemployment. Solve that problem, and the others will come along.

Posted by: LaRayaAsul | October 13, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

CCR said "This is where I think our immigration issues come in play. How many jobs in Santa Barbara are given to illegal aliens."

I live and work in Santa Barbara, and I can honestly tell you that most of the jobs that illegal aliens have are NOTHING that a citizen would want to commit to. Washing dishes for 6 - 8 hours, 7 days a week, the backbreaking job of picking produce, cleaning houses for minimum wage...Trust me, the oil job will provide a wage for Mr. Clements to take care of his family, unlike any job an illegal alien currently has.

Posted by: laughhearty | October 13, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

We are all from this world we are all born here. Stop living with the illusion that you are better or lesser than someone else because of Country of origin or social status. No more division among us please wakeup and see what is really going on. The way our World Leaders have been trying to runn the show by ego and power. Killing us with Wars and denying us true knowledge by controlling Religion, School Systems, Hollywood, media, patents so no one can bring usfree energy they are the real problem. Bless you all and you to bless all and everyone you come across you will change the world for the better, all of us are making the world better by expressing our unconditional love for one another.

Posted by: polla_002 | October 15, 2008 12:52 AM | Report abuse

David, Let me enlighten you...as my name implys Im originally from the borough of Brooklyn and lived in Queens as well...homelessness has been an issue in the city since my childhood (60's and 70's) I will never forget my first encounter with a "bum" in the subways (back then it was NOT the everyday occurance) but I will say it is not the family crisis it is now. In the early 90's with 3 kids and my oldest going to jr. high we left the city and happily dwelled in a small, rural town in the Catskill Mts. for 18 years. City issues seemed far away but even there, where everybody knows everybody else on a first name basis homelessness has arrived. Not so much for local families (who are often helped by townies trying to do right for "their own") but folks (obviously) in need of mental health services placed by the state in whatever local housing is available and just let them wander unknown and unassisted. It doesnt have to be warm where you are to have a houseless population...the dif is in NY they freeze to death and still nobody cares.

Posted by: BrendaBlueNY | October 15, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

The article says more homeless on the streets is an early indicator... that would be a cute joke if peoples lives weren't in such a sad state.
The early indicator was the much earlier fall-off of construction, which Wall Street pundits decidedly ignored in their feverish race for greed. They have earned a heavy rebuke; instead they receive a heavy bailout... and the homeless can eventually help pay the tab.

Posted by: TerrifiedCitizen | October 17, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

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