LOMPOC, Calif. - About four and a half years ago, the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County started a program, targeting low-income areas in high need neighborhoods.
“These are kids that are coming from some of the toughest neighborhoods. Specifically in Lompoc, we did what we call Community Walks where we would go and pick kids up, signed them up for memberships and then bring our vans and take those children to and from the Boys and Girls Club on a daily basis,” said Michael Baker, CEO of United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County.
As Baker puts it, this is something they didn’t have to do but it was the right thing to do.
“We did that hand-in-hand with the police and religious leaders in the community and other civic individuals,” said Baker.
On an average summer day, 90 to 100 kids, ages kindergarten to high school, are at the facility off Ocean Avenue. However, officials say without police support during outreach, it’s just not the same.
While the pick-ups continue every day at 11:30, the Community Walks, have fallen by the wayside.
“Because of budget cuts in many of the cities that we’re working with, the police support is not able to be there as much as they’d like to be,” said Baker.
The Lompoc Summer Police Camp is no longer and officers with the Lompoc Police Department say they don’t even have the manpower to put on a National Night Out.
“I think all those things that we did in the past helped to educate kids and give them other options that maybe they didn’t think they had before,” said Captain Kevin Martin, Lompoc Police Department.
Due to funding and staffing, Martin says they’re struggling just to staff patrol and the detective bureau and can’t do much else - their hands are tied.
"When I drive into the city on my way to work and I see these problems staring to exist and to know we just don’t have the resources to be able to provide that service to our community, it’s very, very frustrating,” said Martin.
Baker says they will never turn a kid away and there are scholarships available to cover membership costs.