SANTA BARBARA COUNTY - A recent countywide count of homeless individuals and families shows a slight drop in the numbers but homeless advocates say its still a big problem in Santa Barbara County.
Michael Cangro says he was left homeless after losing his job and his marriage about five years ago.
"No family here so I ended up coming to the streets", Cangro says while sitting in the warm sunshine in a Santa Maria supermarket parking lot.
Cangro says he barely survives on a meager disability check and prefers the street then a bed in a local shelter.
"When you're sleeping (in a shelter) you still have to worry about people taking your stuff while your asleep", Cangro says, "I almost feel safer when I'm out here by myself."
Cangro was among 300 individuals counted in the recent "Point in Time and Vulnerability Index" of Santa Barbara County's homeless population.
Preliminary results from the count show the vast majority of homeless individuals live in Santa Barbara, more than three times as many than in Santa Maria.
By contrast, Santa Maria has the most homeless families with a total of 89 compared to 67 in Santa Barbara and 17 in Lompoc.
The bi-annual census is required in order for local non-profits to receive federal funding to help the homeless.
Michael Cangro says he hopes the data will more accurately explain how and why so many people are homeless.
"They judge us based on the stereotype that we're out here because of drugs and alcohol", Cangro says, "there's other factors, like for myself, I lost my job, caused problems in the marriage, divorce, I'm from Orange County and I'm not from here."
"I think its stated in the paper that we've become a culture", Cangro says, "that's good for people to know too, its growing, its a population and we need help."
Santa Barbara County is funding a new collaborative effort to bring local non-profits in the county together to develop more effective programs for the homeless and avoid wasting funds through duplication.
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