I am writing in regard to the recent articles discussing the City Council’s formation of a homeless committee and the mayor’s opposition to Measure H.
I am a Santa Clarita Valley resident and I also happen to be the executive director of PATH, a large homeless services organization that works across the county, including in Santa Clarita.
I grew up in Santa Clarita, and my entire family still lives here. We’ve all seen homelessness in our community and the rest of the county worsen over the years, and I’ve dedicated my life and career to working to address it.
I am thrilled that the Santa Clarita City Council will be studying solutions to homelessness more in depth, and I have reached out to Mayor Smyth and Councilwoman McLean to offer my assistance as they seek to learn more about the issue and approaches that have worked in other communities.
Yet I was disappointed to see that Mayor Smyth opposes Measure H, which would finally provide funding across Los Angeles County for approaches that have been proven to work.
PATH works in communities of every type and make-up across California from San Diego to San Jose, and in the past four years, we have helped more than 7,000 families, veterans, and chronically homeless individuals make it home.
We, and the other effective organizations that work in this field, including Bridge to Home, L.A. Family Housing, and so many others we are fortunate enough to partner with, have learned over the decades what it takes to truly end homelessness.
But the resources have never been there. We scrape together what we can, when we can, and try to make a difference where we can, all the while knowing exactly what needs to be done – just not being able to do it.
So we, as a community of providers and advocates and others who know what it takes, fought for years to change the systems, create the partnerships, build the political will, and get the resources to do what we know needs to be done.
Countless people from so many different agencies across every sector of L.A. County who deal with homelessness each day – businesses, housing, law enforcement, EMS, health care, social services, nonprofits, government, faith, education and more – have worked for so long to get to the moment last year when the county Board of Supervisors approved the strategies of the county Homeless Initiative that we all helped to create and can all stand behind.
And we continued to push for an ongoing revenue source that would allow us to actually implement those strategies and sustain them for the long term.
Our elected officials listened and unanimously voted to give all of us, residents of L.A. County, the chance to finally commit the resources it takes to really do something about homelessness. We get to do that by voting “yes” on Measure H on March 7.
Mayor Smyth says it’s too much too soon with the other taxes recently passed. Measure H is a quarter-cent sales tax that will cost the average consumer about $12 per year. I, for one, am willing to give up the equivalent of three lattes a year to help 45,000 people – including far too many families, veterans, and seniors – move off the streets and back into our communities, where they belong, and to prevent homelessness for 30,000 more. It’s not something that can wait until our parks and roads are built and other taxes have expired.
Mayor Smyth also says he questions the motives of putting this on a special election ballot with a likely low voter turnout.
Rest assured, we all wanted this to be on the ballot in November when we knew it would pass – just like Proposition HHH (the L.A. City homelessness bond measure) did – with more than three-quarters of people voting to approve it.
Unfortunately, March was the soonest it could happen, and we’re all worried about what a low, typically more conservative turnout might mean.
But we’re trying to get out the vote, and we’re hoping that the people of L.A. County agree that homelessness is too important of an issue to ignore any longer.
Finally, Mayor Smyth asks where the money has gone that was supposed to be funding homeless programs in the first place. To that I would simply say that there would be far more than the 47,000 now homeless in L.A. County if it weren’t for those previous resources.
And I would refer him to the countless current and former SCV residents that PATH, Bridge to Home, and others who administer those programs have helped who would otherwise still be living in the wash, or in their cars, or in other places more destitute than you or I could ever imagine.
The solutions that the council’s ad hoc committee seeks are already known. They are laid out in the county’s strategies, and Measure H is what’s needed to make them happen.
We know exactly what it takes to end homelessness, but if we can’t fund it, we never will.
Katie Hill is executive director and deputy CEO of PATH, a statewide nonprofit organization to end homelessness. She holds a master’s degree in public administration from Cal State Northridge and is a resident of the Santa Clarita Valley.