While City Councilwoman Marsha McLean declined this week to take a stand on Measure H, the county ballot item that would enact a quarter-center sale-tax hike to fund homeless programs, she did strongly defend the city’s dedication to the homeless issue — which prompts the question:
What is the city doing to address a homeless situation that, on the county level, has been labeled a state of emergency, prompting the March 7 ballot measure?
“The city has been quite extensively involved with Bridge to Home (the city’s shelter) regarding finding a location where they don’t have to move all the time … till they find a permanent location, and the city is working with them on that,’’ said McLean — who is one half of a newly formed Council ad hoc committee (with Mayor Cameron Smyth) that will study the homeless issue locally.
“And the city provides them with funding,’’ McLean added.
How much funding?
Specifically, the city provided Bridge to Home with just under $10,000 in city funds last year, according to Carrie Lujan, Santa Clarita’s communications manager.
That’s about one percent of the shelter’s overall annual operating budget of just under $1 million, a figure provided by Hunt Braly, president of Bridge to Home’s Board of Directors.
Breaking down the city funds that went to Bridge to Home last year, Lujan cited $5,000 in sponsorship for the shelter’s annual fund-raising event, and just under $4,900 in Community Services and Arts Grants.
Additionally, she said, the city channeled federally funded Community Service Block Grants to the shelter to the tune of just over $64,000 last year — $35,000 for homeless case management and life-skill programs, and $29,400 for affordable-housing programs.
Braly, however, said the city leases space to the shelter “for literally nothing.”
The county, meanwhile, contributed $70,000 to Bridge to Home last year for “services,” according to Fred Leaf, senior health-policy adviser to County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
A year earlier, the county contributed $90,000 for capital projects as well as $70,000 for services, Leaf said.
How extensively has the city been working to find Bridge to Home a permanent location?
“The city has been, the last two years in particular, a tremendous help,’’ Braly said, adding that the shelter “continues to work closely with the city to find another location (for a permanent location), and there’s another meeting with the city next week to see where we are in that process.”
He said he is “cautiously optimistic” that a permanent location can be found by the middle of 2017.
Currently, Bridge to Home operates a winter emergency shelter, seasonal only, on Drayton Avenue in Newhall, but runs programs throughout the year.
Braly said the issue of making the facility year-round is not currently on the radar, but that it’s “certainly something we’re not closed-minded to.”
All this comes a day after Smyth came out publicly against county Measure H, whose quarter-cent sales-tax increase would run for 10 years to fund a wide array of homeless programs.
Barger is a big supporter of the measure.
“Clearly, the issue of homelessness is one that needs to be addressed, not just in L.A. County, but here in Santa Clarita, and there are some very good proposals in the measure,’’ Smyth said of Measure H.
But he added that taxpayers already pay enough. He sees the Council’s new committee as a potential information repository for non-profits, government agencies and the private sector to fund homeless programs.
“It’s obviously not a quick fix, it’s obviously a complex issue with many facets, so it’s going to be a long-term plan, but I thought getting the committee formed would be a good first step,” Smyth said.
McLean, asked if she would support Measure H, said, “I’m staying out of that one – I’m leaving it up to the taxpayers.’’