I come from a military family, and this has allowed me wider view of the world as a whole.
As a new transplant to the Santa Clarita area, one of the most surprising aspects of this city has been the large homeless population.
The homeless of the city encompass students, children and even individuals with one or two jobs that are unable to make ends meet due to the high cost of living in the area.
Currently, there are services in the area to help the homeless, but, unfortunately the local shelter, Bridge to Home, is only open through the winter and not all-year long for individuals and families.
This leads to a large migratory movement of homeless to and from the shelter and adjoining areas. While the population moves as the summer heat becomes a hazard, the surrounding areas become flooded with people that are in need and have very few places to turn for help.
According to the city of Santa Clarita’s webpage, last year’s Homeless Count of Los Angeles for 2017 identified 57,794 homeless individuals and families, unsheltered and sheltered.
This number does not include those that were not counted, which could mean that this number is not representative of the entire population.
In my area, there were 331 identified homeless individuals.
Although the number 331 may not seem like a lot given the population density of the area, each individual is a human being and is born with the basic rights that all people are guaranteed.
They deserve dignity, respect and help from their country.
In truth, most Americans have on average less than $5,000 in their bank account.
This means that given the high cost of living many people are living check-to-check and have very little cushion should they have a bout of bad luck, illness or injury.
In essence, this means that as time progresses and the poverty line raises, homelessness will become more and more prevalent in the area as those savings will recede in the rising tide of costs.
As such, many are not immune as they may believe themselves to be.
Homelessness can affect your family members, your children, the neighbor next door or even you.
This issue hits home for me, because I knew homelessness as a child.
I remember going to school and the only meals I had being provided were school lunches. All that time the school and friends did not know.
We were scared because of the fear of being reported as the area we lived in did not have funds to help families with similar circumstances.
In this, I was a child living in fear of unknown authoritarians taking me from my family and the constant gnaw of starvation rumbling in my stomach.
As a community, we can make sure that this is not the fate of our fellow men, women and children. We can increase funding and donation to Santa Clarita’s local shelter in order to provide year-round services.
This would help the community alleviate the suffering of some of its most vulnerable citizens.
As a short term solution, we, as a community, can help fund the construction of a year-round shelter.
For a long-term solution, I propose local policy changes to increase affordable housing within the city of Santa Clarita as well. According to the Greater Los Angeles Count Organization, the leading cause of homelessness is the economy and Los Angeles lacking affordable housing.
Rental prices for apartments continue to increase, while the minimum wage worker struggles to keep pace.
During a meeting with Chris Najarro, the director of programs at Bridge to Home, it was discussed that the homeless rates within Santa Clarita have risen over the past seven years she has worked with the organization.
Although funding is being provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, county and federal grants, city funding, and donations, additional funding would be necessary to increase services and open the shelter full time to better serve individuals and families going through homelessness.
It was also discussed that as a community it would help to “become familiar with local services to refer any one in need, read upon the issue of homelessness, volunteer and increase funding” to better serve all vulnerable populations.
As a community we can advocate for affordable housing and build a larger shelter in order to provide year-round services to engender the positive change that will allow a more clear vision of the American Dream to many that see it as merely a disenfranchising mirage.
If we are to become the city that sets the pace for others these few small steps towards human dignity with respect to the homeless will leave a lasting impact on forward thinking policy makers and create a better future where children need not feel the sting of economic disparity nor the tearing claws of hunger.
Gabriela Yearick is a student in the Masters in Social Work program at USC.