Santa Barbara View asked the candidates running for Santa Barbara City Council, What will you do to reclaim State Street? Here is Gregg Hart’s response.
“Unfortunately, aggressive panhandling and nuisance crimes have increased in all business districts in the City primarily because of the recession (this is something we have seen in every economic downturn) and is particularly intensified by the addition of the young traveling homeless that move in and out of our town and harass people on State St. Cities that have had the most success with reducing panhandling are able to effectively encourage people to give directly to agencies that are offer drug and alcohol treatment rather than giving money to people who are begging on the street.
The root causes of homelessness are very complex and multi-faceted. I served on the Board of Directors of the Mental Health Association and know there are not sufficient resources available to help the mentally ill in our community especially those who self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Many families have become homeless because of financial or health problems. Others could make better life choices but are unfairly taking advantage of the generosity of residents and visitors who feel sympathy toward people on the street. The unique populations require different approaches.
During my two full terms on the City Council, I supported an increased police presence on State Street, helped establish the “host program” and gave law enforcement more tools to crack down on aggressive panhandling and nuisance crimes. We also invested in effective programs that continue to provide pathways to help individuals and families find permanent housing, employment and mental health services.
I am also encouraged by the innovative and collaborative work the Milpas Business Association is doing to address these issues on the eastside and think their experience can also be successfully applied to State St.”
Gregg’s campaign Facebook page can be found here.