Lori Broadway sits in Veteran's Historical Plaza Park. Austin Dave /The Signal
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We are two Santa Clarita residents writing to you as fellow citizens to direct your attention to an epidemic that is occurring around us.

Within the last year, the number of our neighbors who are homeless has increased tremendously; with the increase in those homeless, further action is need to keep our friends safe and out of harm’s way.

Recent solutions presented have failed to help our citizens, and as the seasons pass their numbers and suffering continue to increase.

For the sake of our unfortunate inhabitants, we propose that a new project be funded to create more homeless shelters to get our friends back on their feet in the interest of enabling them to contribute to the community they call home.

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority, the increase in the homeless within our valley is tremendous, and countywide it’s some 41,000. A solution must be put forward to help our law-abiding citizens.

We need four homeless shelters, two of which are year-round, funded and built in the four districts of the Santa Clarita Valley. All of these shelters, or at least a majority, should be built within a five-mile radius of the wash that runs through SCV to provide easier access for the majority of our homeless citizens who find refuge there.

With the support of the city, appropriate budget cuts and an increase in revenue from Los Angeles County officials, this project to care for the poor in our community can become a possibility.

This project would increase the physical and mental aid provided to our homeless, giving them the tools they need to get back on their feet and continue to contribute to their community.

The current Bridge to Home shelter has provided help to many of our citizens, but its lack of size and operational hours are not sufficient to help the growing homeless community. According to its website, on any given night SCV has around 2,000 homeless; with only 60 beds that are available 127 nights out of the year only 34 percent of our homeless citizens are being helped during the winter.

More than 66 percent are not being given the shelter and medical services they need to get back on their feet. As the years go by, that number will begin to increase; we need to be able to respond to this epidemic now.

Building three more shelters of 60-100 beds each would provide a sufficient amount of service to our homeless, more than doubling the support year-round to our friends in need.

Starting around the early months of 2015, Santa Clarita Valley along with county officials began sweeping through homeless shelters in the Santa Clara River bed, giving those who are living there approximately 72 hours to evacuate the wash; those who did not cooperate or where found guilty of criminal activity were either sent to a nearby hospital or to jail.

This new tactic to deal with the homeless in our community has not fixed the problem, but only moved it out of sight. As a community, it is our duty to take care of all of our neighbors, rich or poor, sheltered or not; moving our citizens to a different location does not solve anything, but only increases their hostility toward the very people who are called to help them.

I pray that as a community we may live up to our religious and ethical convictions and focus on issues that are important.

Soli Deo Gloria and Christian Patrick Kelsey are Santa Clarita Valley residents.

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  • Ron Bischof

    epidemic |ˌepəˈdemik|
    a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time: a flu epidemic.
    • a disease occurring in such a way.
    • a sudden, widespread occurrence of a particular undesirable phenomenon: an epidemic of violent crime.

    relating to or of the nature of an epidemic: shoplifting has reached epidemic proportions.

  • Brian Baker

    Hold on a sec! Prop H was passed already. That was supposed to “solve” our “homeless problem”.

    Shouldn’t you be addressing your concerns to whomever runs those programs, rather than the people at large with a column in this newspaper?

  • Gil Mertz

    “…This new tactic to deal with the homeless in our community has not fixed the problem, but only moved it out of sight…”

    The same could be said of the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles which has been around since 1890 when the Salvation Wagon went through the streets by horse. No one questions the passion of Jesus for the homeless but even he said “the poor you will always have with you.” (Matthew 26:11)

    It’s difficult to do more for our homeless neighbors until they are willing to do more for themselves.

    • Ron Bischof

      I note that Supervisor Barger is prioritizing focus on assisting those with mental illness that are a danger to themselves or others.

      This would assist families challenged with caring for their loved ones to deal with red tape.

      • Gil Mertz

        That’s good to hear, Ron. Mental illness is a big reason for homelessness and I’m totally in favor of providing services to help them. As for the able-bodied, I worked at the Union Rescue Mission for a number of years and I was told repeatedly by those who graduated from our recovery program that until they hit bottom and were ready to help themselves, there was little others could do for them.

        • Jim de Bree

          Thank you for your community service Gil. You are absolutely correct about the addicted having to hit bottom before begin able to climb out of their hole. However, there are a large number of mentally ill people who either are not addicts or they are self medicating to treat their problems. I am not sure we have figured out how to effectively help those folks.

          • Gil Mertz

            Thank you Jim and you’re absolutely right about the mentally ill. You’d be really surprised (as was I) to see how many homeless people there are sleeping in cardboard boxes on the sidewalks just steps away from large homeless shelters where a hot meal, nice shower, and warm bed is waiting for them. For many, it is about resisting the challenge to change and clean up their lives. As we used to say at the Mission, “They’re still digging their holes”. When they would stop digging, they would enroll in our long-term rehabilitation program and we saw remarkable transformations which were very gratifying. But for many others, it was clearly a mental health issue which is driving their behavior. There are services for this population but not nearly enough. Perhaps it’s because they are lumped together with those who are choosing homelessness over accountability or changing their lifestyle. I think if we put more focus on services for those who are truly helpless, we’d see a substantial changes in the homeless population.