Step in the right direction

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We are pleased this weekend to pause and congratulate both the city of Santa Clarita and the nonprofit Bridge to Home for resolving a big gap in Santa Clarita Valley services: the lack of a year-round homeless shelter.

In a unanimous vote during Tuesday’s Santa Clarita City Council meeting, council members agreed to sign over a parcel of city-owned Drayton Street property to Bridge to Home. The nonprofit currently operates a winter homeless shelter on the parcel.

The move makes more Measure H funds available to Bridge to Home so it can extend operation of the shelter to year-round status, Councilman Bill Miranda said during the proceedings.

There are, of course, hoops still to be jumped through for the deal to become final.

Measure H was approved countywide in a special election held in March this year. It hiked the county sales tax by one-quarter percent for 10 years to raise money to help relieve homelessness in Los Angeles County.

Out of concern that the city’s homeless would not receive their fair share of Measure H benefits should the measure pass, Mayor Cameron Smyth formed a city ad hoc committee on homelessness in February “so we can put something together with the nonprofits, government agencies and possibly the private sector” as a Santa Clarita plan for the homeless.

The transfer of the Drayton Street property is the first tangible evidence of benefits from Measure H for SCV’s homeless.

For years, both the desirability of a Santa Clarita Valley homeless shelter and its best location have been hotly debated, particularly within the business community.

Initially, proponents of a shelter had to battle the “If you build it, they will come” school of thought, which held that a homeless shelter will just attract homeless to the valley, and the best plan was to keep a shelter out of the area.

Gradually, local business leaders were convinced otherwise and stepped up in support of a shelter. The issue became where to put it, and for years it bounced between public property sites within the valley.

Nobody wanted it in their backyard, including residents of areas around the Via Princessa Metrolink Station, one of its more recent temporary homes.

The discussion had turned to moving the shelter to the grounds of the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic when the city agreed to a year-to-year deal at Drayton Street. Drayton is in an industrial area running alongside the railroad tracks east of Railroad Avenue in Saugus.

Tuesday’s council vote makes the location official, although business owners in the area objected.

“Drayton Street is a terrible location for a homeless shelter,” said Lyle Olsen, co-owner of a neighboring business, during Tuesday night’s council meeting. “There’s no street lights, no pedestrian crossing, no crosswalk, no caution sign, with the nearest fire hydrant 500 feet away.”

Councilman Bob Kellar noted the city would need to improve lighting and infrastructure but added, “This location is probably as good as it’s going to get for a permanent homeless shelter.”

Volunteers for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority counted 331 homeless residents in the Santa Clarita Valley last January when it conducted its most recent count, up from 316 in 2016. Most, surveys have indicated, were residents of the Santa Clarita Valley before losing their homes.

A city spokeswoman said Friday that the next ad hoc committee on homelessness meeting has not yet been scheduled. The city has held them about once a month.

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