By Georgia Rios and Perry Smith
As about a half-inch of rain fell on the Santa Clarita Valley over the weekend, a couple of Santa Clarita’s less fortunate residents were upset that there was no place for them to go.
A shortage of volunteers and resources left a pair of homeless residents stranded outside Bridge to Home’s facility over the weekend, in a situation the organization’s leader chalked up to the shelter’s open season winding down and a shortage of staff.
“If we are able to open up when it’s raining, we absolutely do that,” said Sylvia Gutierrez, executive director of Bridge to Home. “(On Saturday), we were, unfortunately, not able to open during the day because we didn’t have staff coverage.”
The 10 staff members at the shelter are part-time and seasonal, she added, explaining toward the end of that season, it’s not uncommon for workers to take positions elsewhere—out of necessity.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority requires the shelter have at least two staff on the premises during the day. During the night, the facility must have two staff and one security guard.
“We weren’t able to meet that minimum requirement (to open the shelter during the day),” she added, noting the shelter did operate for an extended number of days this year due to support from L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, as well as opening earlier than the Dec. 1 start date required of seasonal shelters like the SCV location.
The staffing situation highlights the growing need for resources, as the question of what’s expected to happen if the rain goes past March and the challenges still facing local facilities continues.
The nonprofit volunteers and staff who run the shelter are still working to determine how to help those in need with Measure H funds.
While L.A. County voters approved the measure to generate $350 million per year to fight the problem of homelessness, which had been declared a crisis by county officials, the city of Santa Clarita, like other cities, is still working to determine how to best use these resources. The City Council recently approved a contract that would create a plan on how to address concerns at the city level.
Gutierrez also mentioned ambitious plans, ahead of the shelter’s planned move to year-round status, which hasn’t happened yet.
“We just finished submitting a funding request for a capital grant,” she added, noting the shelter is hopeful the $900,000 being sought will be enough to build a new facility to house 60 people, as well as allow for space to support families and community partners.
The current facility lacks a sewer hookup or running water, but both of those issues would be addressed in the new facility, which is already in the planning phases.