By Sharon Byrne for El Smurfo, regarding recent Views on Santa Barbara’s Homeless.
Grifter: travelling homeless, make their way up and down the coast, or across the country. Come into Santa Barbara at various times of year to camp, stay at Casa Esperanza, and panhandle. Engage in drinking and drug use. Sometimes get into fights, shoplift. Often arrive and depart in packs together.
Transitional Homeless: you’ll never see them, unless you let someone temporarily living in their car sleep in your driveway. Homeless for 2 minutes to 2 days to 2 weeks – they want a job, a place to live, and to return to a normal life ASAP. Despise shelters. Panhandle out of sheer desperation, if ever. If long-term stable employment or housing is unattainable, they can become chronically homeless over time, moving from the car to hotel rooms, wherever they can. This group contains families, and is the focus of news stories on distressing economic conditions. The vast majority find their way back to a stable life. This is also the group referred to when admonished ‘we’re all just one paycheck away…’
Addicts: Think of the crowd at State St at Haley, or lower Milpas. Alcohol or drug issue brought them into homelessness, though some do have places to stay. Panhandle, steal, shoplift – anything to get that next fix. Sleep on the street as consequence of addiction. Thrown out of homes, shelters, for substance abuse issues. In and out of jail for public inebriation, drug use, drug sales. Some move around to different towns, check into detox or shelter, but often go right back to using. Over time, if they remain addicted, they can become chronically homeless…
Chronic Homeless: homeless 5 years or more, stay in same area, don’t travel unless to escape dangerous situation, often beset with addiction and mental illness issues. Very hard to get off the street, and relapse is common. Multiple citations for open container, illegal camping, urination – nuisance crimes. In and out of shelters, and some are banned from the area shelters. Some of the most chronically homeless will not panhandle. It’s a bit of a pride thing with them, and they’ll do odd jobs or get SSI. Mostly want to be left alone, but do sometimes have a social network of similar chronic homeless that help each other out.
Felons: look like homeless men, but edgier – newer clothes, tattoos, haircuts. Newly released from prison or jail back to jurisdiction where they offended (even if not their actual home). Appear homeless, but will rob and attack other homeless. Will accost and aggressively panhandle, swearing they just need gas or a night of lodging…the car broke down, etc. They will often resort to the behaviors for which they were incarcerated: drug use and trafficking, assault, breaking and entering, theft, and sexual assault.
Avoid if possible, and call SBPD if you see them lingering in your neighborhood, or encounter them in a less busy area.
Yoach: the anarchist goth set that congregates at De La Guerra Plaza and in front of the Habit. Rack up $30 an hour from LA Tourists and SB Bleeding Hearts to buy cigs, booze and weed. They hail from Portland, Seattle, Austin, and other liberal cities. Usually 25 and under. NOT actually homeless, just ‘checking out, occupying, and doing the vagabond thing.’ Camp by freeways, hitchhike to next town, hold up offensive (sometimes humorous) signs on State St, travel in packs, usually with pit bulls in tow, guitars, giant mountaineering backpacks, and dreadlocks.