LOMPOC, Calif. - Common Ground volunteers are working to combat chronic homelessness through one-on-one interaction. It's a collaborative effort of local non-profit organizations and government agencies bringing a volunteer training program to Lompoc.
The individual trainings come one month after 600 community members attended a homelessness action summit in Santa Barbara. They saw a need for the trainings in several communities within Santa Barbara County.
Emily Allen with Common Ground, said. "Seven percent of the people experiencing homelessness in our county was in Lompoc and 20 percent in Santa Maria."
To help with homeless services and housing, common ground is putting a homelessness volunteering training in Lompoc on March 22nd.
Chuck Hughes, a homelessness advocate, was once approached by a Common Ground volunteer. Hughes was homeless four years ago. He was homeless for 20 consecutive years.
Hughes once thought he would never have a roof over his head. "I had given up on housing I thought I'd never be able to afford it," Hughes said.
He was a homeless man living in Goleta. "Police kept chasing me I had several sights I rotated around."
When he was younger, Hughes installed ceiling lights at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He later worked as a custodian, but because of a heart condition he could no longer work. He ended up without a home.
Living 20 years in a tent, Hughes said he appreciates having a home now.
"Every year I kept wondering if I'd make it through the next winter. Every year got harder and harder," Hughes said.
Hughes laughed, saying he was hesitant to speak with Common Ground volunteers, but he was happy to have someone to speak with. He said the volunteers made him feel at ease.
After 20 years, his story changed.
Emily Allen, with Common Ground, said volunteers help do vulnerability surveys and help people fill out housing applications.
Common Ground brings volunteer trainings based on the core Mental Health Service Act principles of empowerment and recover. Participants engage in outreach and attend a variety of trainings that help shape advocacy skills.
Allen said getting to know homeless people is one way to battle chronic homelessness advocates are working together to help people like chuck
Kristen Tippelt, with Peoples Self Help Housing said, "There are 7 outreach teams in Santa Barbara and now that we've figured out the model common ground is taking this county wide and creating local groups in each community."
Tippelt said, "Volunteers get to participate in helping people end their homelessness, and join with them side by side. They get to know to know that's not just the homeless guy on the street; that's frank and he became homeless for whatever reason.
For more information, log on to www.commongroundsb.org.
Lompoc Training: Saturday, March 22 from 10am-3pm at Lompoc Health Care Centra, 301 N. "R" Street, Lompoc.