Santa Barbara homeless population affecting SBCC

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Santa Barbara homeless population affecting SBCC

Morten Opedal

Morten Opedal

Morten Opedal

Brooke Holland, Staff Writer

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The rising homeless population near City College has resulted in a higher rate of campus crime.

Campus security has responded to many recent disturbances in the Southwest campus area. Officer’s reports linked to Pershing Park include assaults, drug use, and other crimes.

“We recognize that the homeless population is a concern to students and staff. People feel uncomfortable,” said Erik Fricke, director of campus security.

During the school week, around 5:45 a.m., Security Officer Martin Hernandez wakes up the individuals sleeping outside the park’s restrooms and softball field. Hernandez attempts to remove the group of transients before the rush of students arrive on campus. While working, he has received verbal threats and observed individuals urinate on buildings. According to Hernandez, more than 90 percent of the time, the disruptive individuals on campus are intoxicated.

If an officer observes alcohol drinking on campus, SBPD is contacted.

“I wouldn’t want my children walking through Pershing Park,” Hernandez said. “It can be a danger zone.”

Nightly security officers are required to lock the tennis courts to prevent wandering individuals from camping and sleeping inside the courts. If a transient refuses to listen to the request of a security officer to leave, SBPD is called.

“Campus security can’t completely control the situation, we try to handle it the best we can. By responding to calls or by security observation,” Fricke said.

Multiple homeowners across the street said two weekly volunteer groups attract large groups of transients that contribute to the disturbances in the area. Reverend Hank Drowst hosts a free meal for the homeless every Sunday where he also provides ministry. Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., the Santa Barbara Seventh-day Adventist Church offers another chance for a free meal to needy members of the community.

“We get multiple calls throughout the semester reporting the homeless on campus,” Fricke said.

Currently, more than 1,450 people live on Santa Barbara streets and many are regularly found on City College Campus. According to the Common Ground Santa Barbara Homeless Advocacy Project, the number of homeless people in Santa Barbara has decreased by 10 percent since 2011.

“The police have been very responsive in trying to control and move the homeless. The problem is, there is so many of them in Santa Barbara,” Fricke said.

Being homeless is not a crime, but some acts of public behavior are illegal and encouraged to be reported. Campus security recommends students to report any bizarre behavior from the homeless such as; loitering, being intoxicated, trespassing, panhandling, urinating and defecating in public, people camping or sleeping on campus, littering, or behaving in a threatening manner. For immediate response, please contact campus security at 730-4064.

Students and faculty are encouraged to be alert and travel in groups if using the grassy area in Pershing Park and the City College softball fields after dark.

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