Mayor and business owners talk of new ideas to ongoing issues with the homeless

Solutions require a multi-phased approach

Police talk about homeless issues and solutions in downtown Santa Barbara. (John Palminteri/KEYT photo)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - An early morning meeting brings out a large crowd to talk about the homeless and other State Street issues in Santa Barbara.

 Mayor Helene Schneider called the roundtable meeting, but it was a standing room only group at 8 a.m.

Many were outspoken about transients, and the impact on everything from shoppers to long term use of street benches. Those calling on an increase in patrol officers were told that is only a part of many layers to solution.

"More police would definitely be nice and it may make people feel safer seeing a uniformed presence. We could write a 1000 tickets, but if it is not affecting the root cause and those people remain then to what effort are those citations taking?" said Lt. Ed Olsen , a 27-year veteran with the Santa Barbara Police Department.

One business owner said this could be a time to revitalize downtown."I think we need to look at other examples. Other cities have almost eradicated it and some cities are working on it and they are doing a better job," said Tina Takaya of Opal Restaurant.

In recent weeks more foot patrol officers have been seen on State Street.   Some benches have been removed where the homeless have congregated for hours.

The city says it wants to be compassionate with help for those who need housing, health and  at times relocation needs.  Officials say  they will not tolerate anyone who violates local laws consistently, from aggressive panhandling to blocking a sidewalk.

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