Homelessness is an extremely complex social problem that impacts the quality of life in our community. There are no easy solutions. The Code Compliance Office and the Santa Maria Police Department (SMPD) recognize that there is a fine line between homelessness as a social issue and a criminal issue. Many homeless are on the street because of substance abuse, mental illness, or both. Often the disorder issues associated with homelessness are criminal in nature, but difficult to enforce.
While being homeless is not a crime, many kinds of public conduct are illegal and should be reported to the SMPD. These include being intoxicated, loitering, prowling, fighting, trespassing, aggressive panhandling, soliciting, urinating and defecating, consuming alcoholic beverages in certain public places, camping or sleeping in parks, littering, obstructing sidewalks, living in a vehicle parked on a public street, disturbing the peace by loud and unreasonable noises, behaving in a threatening manner, etc.
The following tips will help you avoid problems with homeless people.
Did you know that not all local panhandlers are actually homeless but rather are supplementing their incomes through panhandling on City streets? Most panhandlers do not live here, and by giving money directly to these panhandlers you could be supporting addictions?
The City of Santa Maria is partnering with various homeless service agencies in a public awareness campaign to help end panhandling on City streets. The City, along with its homeless service partner agencies, are utilizing parking meters as “donation stations” for residents who feel compelled to give money directly to panhandlers.
This program is aimed to raise awareness about panhandling and homelessness. Money collected at these donation stations is earmarked for specific homeless service providers and allows a conscientious donor an immediate alternative to provide financial assistance to responsible agencies that can facilitate adequate services including rehabilitation for those in need.
These donation stations are strategically located throughout the City where panhandling is most prevalent Directly donating to the “donation stations” helps reduce the odds that a chronic panhandler will be able to perpetuate their condition and/or addictions, strain local resources and detract from the quality of life in Santa Maria. If you want to make a difference, feed the meter or give to one of the three non-profit charities that serve the homeless: Good Samaritan Services, Central Coast Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army.
Remember – Aggressive panhandling is illegal. Support Solutions – Not Addictions.