Hurdles stall homeless shelter from opening year-round

Peggy Edwards, the president of the board of directors of Bridge to home, right, talks with Chris Najarro, the director of programs, while giving a tour of the Bridge to Home homeless shelter in Santa Clarita on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

Formalities and finances are going to make it at least a year before Bridge to Home’s homeless shelter is ready to be open year-round, officials said this week.

Santa Clarita City Council members voted to transfer ownership of the shelter from City Hall to the nonprofit’s governing board at a Sept. 26 City Council meeting. But that was just the first step.

Turning the collection of portable, temporary structures at the Drayton Street shelter into a year-round operation with a more permanent feel will take some significant, additional work.

The first priority is the installation of a sewer system for running water and on-site bathrooms. Currently, a portable shower facility donated by Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, and Andy Gumps donated by the eponymously named sanitation company are doing the job, but it’s inconvenient for guests and staff.

Peggy Edwards, Bridge to Home’s governing board president, said estimates for the restroom building and a sewer line will likely exceed $150,000.

Bridge to Home has some money stored in a capital account from donations from churches and discretionary funds from Los Angeles County totaling more than $30,000 that could go to the project.

The rest of the funding would have to come from community fundraising and Measure H funds, the quarter-cent tax initiative for homeless services. One of the strategies listed under Measure H allows for funding for shelter renovation.

Right now, the Drayton Street homeless shelter is finishing up significant renovations for the men’s and women’s dorms, which hold 40 and 20 guests, respectively, according to shelter officials, which is a reflection of the much higher percentage of male clients who come to the shelter.

While those upgrades should be done by the time the shelter opens Nov. 20, the larger goals, which include a permanent building for case management and therapy, are going to be based on how quickly the shelter can raise the funds, or acquire them through Measure H.

Director of programs Chris Najarro, left, and Peggy Edwards, president of the board of directors of Bridge to Home, give a tour of the Bridge to Home homeless shelter in Santa Clarita on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

The dozens of strategies Los Angeles County came up with to end homelessness, which cover areas such as “subsidized housing” and “case management,” with correlating services for nonprofit agencies to provide in order to obtain Measure H money, have provided Bridge to Home officials with more optimism than ever before.

“We’re all hopeful,” Director of Programs Chris Najarro said. “Were in a climate where it will happen as soon as possible.”

As far as the recently approved transfer to city ownership, that’s in the works, awaiting paperwork to make the move official, Bridge to Home officials said.

“We don’t have anything from the city, yet, although they’re working on it in terms of this property,” Edwards said. “All I need is a letter from them saying we have site control.”

Bridge to Home will then need to clarify what they need to do to maintain the land.

“We’ll need to know what our responsibilities are once we own the property,” Edwards said.

After BTH gets ownership of the property, they have a lot of maintenance work to do before it would be ready to house people all year.

Though, Edwards still maintains that the goal is to shift from a dependence on emergency shelters and equip homeless people with permanent residences.

“We want to move away from shelters,” Edwards said, “There’s not permanent supportive housing, and that is the solution.”

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