Photo Essay: Getting to know the community behind Santa Barbaras houseless population

Photo Essay: Getting to know the community behind Santa Barbara’s houseless population

Santa Barbara’s unhoused population can be seen everywhere, from sitting in front of gas stations asking for change to sleeping at the bus stops while commuters wait for their ride. 

These people grew up with hopes and dreams, but there was one singular point that changed the course of their lives. 

Some passers by refuse to acknowledge them. They avoid eye contact, grip their pockets and purses, and speed by. Despite the intimidation the average citizen may feel, these unhoused people have stories, souls, and favorite memories just like anyone else.


This homeless man can be found laying across a bench on the corner of Carillo and State streets, and his name is Matt.

“When my parents bought me a 10 speed [bicycle]… they had four kids… they bought us Hot Wheels and a bicycle.” Matt said, remembering his favorite childhood memory. Matt’s advice to the world would be to “stay busy.” Matt looked forward to going to the gas station later and purchasing a burrito and a nice can of Coca Cola.



This homeless man on State Street asks bystanders for donations, and his name is Jacob. He was unable to comment due to his loss of hearing and being deaf.



Outside of the Santa Barbara Museum of Modern Art, a long stone bench is where Sam spends his time, where some people are hesitant to walk past.

“My dog Ricca, I haven’t seen her in a very long time… a good 15 years ago ” Sam said, reflecting on his favorite memories from childhood.
“Watch the news…there’s a lot of stuff all over North America.” Matt said when asked for his advice.



This is Tom lounging at Alameda Park. Tom said his favorite childhood memory was reading Harry Potter.

“My aunt would read one chapter a night, and because of impatience I taught myself to read,” Matt said. He further explains how it is important to try to be happy, and to not dwell on the negative things in life.



Kenny spends his time at Santa Barbara’s East Beach, accompanied by his belongings scattered around him.

Kenny enjoyed spending time with his father when he was young.

“Getting up in the morning and going hunting with my father…” Kenny said when asked about his favorite childhood memory. “Quail, bird hunting, hog hunting,” Kenny also spends his time making customized dog leashes using colored rope which he sells.

“Go to college… or get a decent job, I did concrete all my life, and I’m just too old to do it,” said Kenny.



Bill perches on the corner of E Cabrillo Blvd and Garden street, asking for spare change accompanied by a stuffed fox.

“When I got my first dog, a black and white Berger Du Languedoc… her name was Shibba.” Bill explained.
“Pay your rent on time, and try to keep your apartment,” Bill said, when asked his one piece of advice.

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