Cameron Smyth & Marsha McLean: Preventing and combating homelessness

Bridge to Home File Art

Addressing homelessness is a challenge. People become homeless for a wide-range of reasons, therefore the solution can’t be one-size fits all. It has to be an interconnected web of resources, help and housing, which is customized to the individual experiencing homelessness. Whether that person lost their job and their home, is escaping a violent situation or suffers from mental illness – each of them needs varying levels of assistance, rehabilitation and support. Taking this on is no easy task, but it is one to which your City Council is fully committed.

Last year, following an uptick in the number of homeless neighbors in our community, we formed a Homeless Issues Ad Hoc Committee of the Santa Clarita City Council. This committee meets with homeless care providers, advocates, social workers and other partners to collaborate, discuss and work toward the most effective strategies for addressing homelessness in our City.

Last October, the City of Santa Clarita was awarded a $50,000 City Planning Grant as part of the Home for Good Funders Collaborative, which was provided by United Way of Greater Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. In February, the City Council awarded the contract for strategic planning to Analytic Insight. These expert consultants are working toward presenting the City Council with a strategic plan to prevent and combat homelessness through effective and efficient collaboration amongst community members and local service providers.

Part of the research/exploration portion of the plan was two half-day workshops, which were held in mid-May at the Old Town Newhall Library. These sessions brought together the non-profits in Santa Clarita who deal with homelessness to brainstorm, strategize and share what work is already being done and identify gaps in service. This meeting was not a public meeting and was intended as an exercise for our homeless service providers. Anyone who is knowledgeable in what the Brown Act states should be aware that, for this type of meeting, the entire City Council could not be in attendance. Councilman Smyth and Mayor Pro Tem McLean welcomed and thanked the participants. Mayor Pro Tem McLean stayed for part of the meeting but it was obvious that the attendees were engaged and needed to be able to speak frankly about their ideas to bring about positive results to implement strategies. Your City Council will receive a full-report from the consultants on the outcome of the workshops and will have a chance to weigh in on the plan when it is brought to the full Council at a public meeting early this summer.

Meanwhile, the City continues to work closely with and provide support to our local non-profit homeless services providers. Most notably, the City recently acquired and is transferring ownership of two pieces of property totaling over an acre of buildable land (valued at approximately $1 million) to Bridge to Home, our local shelter and provider of homeless services. Furthermore, the City Council granted approval of a Temporary Use Permit to operate the emergency shelter year-round. The newly acquired property and approved Temporary Use Permit will position Bridge to Home to receive the maximum amount of funding from Measure H- Los Angeles County’s quarter cent sales tax measure passed in early 2017.

In addition, the City annually awards Community Development Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist lower-income residents in the areas of decent housing, a suitable living environment and expanded economic opportunities. Some of the top priorities for your City Council this year when awarding grants were mental health services, homeless services, a homeless shelter, affordable rental housing, senior rental housing and job creation/retention.

The Santa Clarita City Council truly values its local community partners which includes non-profit and religious organizations that do so much to help individuals and families in Santa Clarita who are on the brink of becoming homeless or who are already experiencing homelessness. City staff meets regularly with non-profits such as Bridge to Home and Family Promise to discuss ways we can effectively help the residents experiencing homelessness in our City.

We continue this work as we await the results of this year’s Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority 2018 Homeless Count. We thank all of our volunteers who made this year’s Point-in-Time (PIT) count possible, while understanding that the number captured by this one-night count does not reflect those who may be living in vehicles or “couch surfing,” and that the real number of those who need assistance in our City is actually much higher.

Your City Council is all hands-on deck when it comes to preventing and combatting homelessness in our community and will continue to provide the leadership to solve this growing problem. We look forward to working through our community homeless action plan and together making a meaningful difference in the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors.

Santa Clarita Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean and Councilmember Cameron Smyth are Homeless Issues Ad Hoc Committee Members.

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