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.
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