Silvia Gutierrez, Hunt Braly: Serving the needs of the homeless

Volunteer Kathy Vance, left, and her family join members of the Smile! Group from Valencia High School as they serve dinners to the clients at the homeless shelter in Santa Clarita on Dec. 29, 2011. Dan Watson/The Signal

Bridge to Home is one of the primary nonprofit homeless service agencies in the Santa Clarita Valley.

It began in 1996 when a small group of local, caring volunteers saw the need and had a vision to make a difference and help their own community members needing help, hope and change by providing services such as shelter and food for those in need.

We initially started with 22 emergency shelter beds during the winter season. This year, Bridge to Home is now operating a 60-bed emergency winter shelter for people experiencing homelessness.

The shelter provides beds, hot meals, dental care and connection to local county services and health care. Last year we provided shelter to 242 people including seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.

Through the years, the vision has grown and evolved to include partnerships with the city of Santa Clarita, the county of Los Angeles, local agencies like the Samuel Dixon Family Health Center, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, Family Promise, and many of our local churches and synagogues.

Bridge to Home is now more than just a winter shelter program and offers an array of year-round comprehensive supportive services and programs.

We understand that people experience homelessness beyond the winter shelter season, and the expansion of services is pulling together resources to provide year-round assistance for those in need.

Homeless programs continue to grow and change in the county and in large cities such as the city of Los Angeles. Bridge to Home is making sure that we are advocating to all agencies regarding the specific needs of Santa Clarita.

This year, Bridge to Home, through its partnership with LA Family Housing, has been identified as a satellite office where we will coordinate the services available for our local families and individuals who need our support.

In January 2017 we will once again, in partnership with the city of Santa Clarita and almost 100 local volunteers, do our local homeless count, which assists us, and other agencies, in determining the number of local people experiencing homelessness and how our programs can help them.

Issues surrounding homelessness are complex, and we need additional support to find temporary and permanent solutions.

First we need to understand how a person becomes homeless. Our clients from this community come to us form different paths.

The reasons for becoming homeless vary from person to person. Some include: a foster child who turned 18 and is no longer eligible for foster care; someone who lost his or her home; someone who could no longer afford health care costs; someone who has a mental health issue, and someone who struggles with drug and/or alcohol abuse.

Bridge to Home customizes its services to provide personal assessments, case management, resources and support.

Our Healthy Lives dental and medical clinics were born out of seeing an unmet need and wrapping around the support and commitment that exists in Santa Clarita through passionate and caring volunteers.

In collaboration with five local churches, we now provide hot meals from April through November during the week to residents who are at risk and/or homeless. The shelter is closed during those months.

As Bridge to Home looks toward the future, we are identifying the location for a permanent homeless services center to house all of our programs – a center to meet not just the current, but also future needs of our community.

In addition, we are beginning to work with the city and other agencies to create permanent supportive housing that combines low-barrier, affordable housing, health care and supportive services to help individuals and families lead more stable lives here in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Bridge to Home continues to make a difference and help those most in need. With our dedicated staff, and the hundreds of local volunteers and donors, we are showing our commitment that we are not willing to see our neighbors set up their homes under a bridge or in the wash.

Our local residents are taking action and are an integral part of what fuels Bridge to Home services.

If you and/or your local organization or church want to help Bridge to Home, you can donate your money, your time, or your talent by contacting Silvia M. Gutierrez at 661-254-4663 or emailing at [email protected].

Please check out our website to see what’s new at Bridge to Home at and like us on Facebook to stay connected.

Silvia M Gutierrez is executive director of Bridge to Home; Hunt C Braly is board president for the agency.

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