Few people in the Santa Clarita Valley know how to serve its homeless population as well as Chris Najarro.
After six years as the executive director at Family Promise, Najarro has left to serve as the director of programs at Bridge to Home.
While the two nonprofit organizations work together often and provide similar services, Bridge to Home’s facilities house quadruple the clients and serve individuals in addition to families.
Coming into this new role, Najarro already had the skillset and understanding of the work Bridge to Home does, making her feel immediately at home.
“It’s definitely where I want to be and I’m excited to continue to do the work,” Chris Najarro said two weeks into her new job.
Najarro comes to her position with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from California State University, Northridge, a recent master’s in social work from University of Southern California and over 15 years working in social services.
In that time, she has had a heart for working with the homeless for a decade.
“I already knew that’s where I wanted to go,” she said about serving homeless people. “It was perfect. It was exactly what I wanted to do.”
The largest adjustment Najarro has made in her new position is working with the groups Bridge to Home contracts with since Family Promise does not contract with anyone. These include contracts with Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the city of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles Family Housing.
“(I am) now understanding what the parameters are, where the limitations are and how that affects what everyone does,” she said. “It’s different than when you’re outside looking in than in here and really understanding the specifics to everything that everyone does.”
Homelessness is more prevalent in conversations in the valley recently, Najarro said, especially with the housing crisis and Santa Clarita’s homeless count increasing from 316 in 2016 to 331 in 2017.
To Najarro, the future of Bridge to Home includes more comprehensive programs, especially through one-one-one case management, and a year-round shelter. She said she’s excited by the possibilities.
To provide the best services, Najarro believes it is important to understand that each person’s story and needs are unique to them.
“We have a heart for them and genuine concern and want to help them and treat them with dignity and want to meet whatever needs they have,” Najarro said.
Using her management experience, Najarro said she has a knack for going into organizations, assessing what they do well and utilizing that to propel them forward.
“(We hope to be) spending more time with the clients, finding out their needs and then addressing those needs regularly and appropriately, really creating a relationship with each individual, seeing them through the process and then streamlining the internal processes we have here,” the director of programs said.
Having Najarro lend her expertise of homelessness and knowledge of available services is an asset to Bridge to Home, according to case manager Joey Splane.
“We have someone who is not only directing, but ready to get down in the trenches with us,” Joey Splane said about Najarro.
Splane said she hopes Najarro takes the same “spunk” she led Family Promise with and uses it to elevate the work Bridge to Home is already doing.