County to vote on helping homeless survive heat wave, Bridge to Home stays open next week

Shelter Manager Olga Ruiz shows the inside of the Bridge to Home homeless shelter in Santa Clarita on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

The Santa Clarita Valley homeless population may soon be able to stay in air-conditioned places past usual business hours.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday on developing a plan to help homeless individuals combat the heat in the county’s rural areas, including the Santa Clarita Valley.

Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger co-authored the motion, which addresses assistance to the homeless such as expanded hours for the county’s designated “cooling centers” and transportation to the centers, said Dana Vanderford, Barger’s homeless-policy deputy.

“Cooling centers” in the Santa Clarita Valley include the SCV Senior Center and the three Santa Clarita public libraries.

In the past, the county has asked the facilities to stay open past operating hours and provide activities for those who need shelter from the heat, local representatives said.

Bridge to Home, the nonprofit seasonal homeless shelter serving the city of Santa Clarita, will reopen next week for the heat wave making another round in the SCV, said interim Executive Director Peggy Edwards.

It will reopen noon to 5:30 p.m. Monday and noon to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

On Saturday, the shelter will also be open for a clinic day from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for the homeless to get foot treatments, as they often have difficulty keeping their feet clean and well-tended, Edwards said.

The shelter is still looking for volunteers and snack donations, she said.

Bridge to Home is not included as one of the county’s cooling centers, as it is not funded by the county to stay open longer.

“It is our policy and intent to be open in the afternoon when it is forecasted to be 99 or higher,” Edwards said. “If it is those temperatures, we make every attempt to stay open.”

Although the senior center and libraries have not been asked to take action during heat wave days this year, homeless and other at-risk individuals are welcome to stop in on particularly hot days, local representatives said.

“We have a community cooling room for when the county asks us to stay open past operating hours,” said Santa Clarita City Librarian Shannon Vonnegut. “We provide water and play a family movie or music for people to cool off when it’s too hot to be at home. When the county officially declares us as a cooling center, we stay open later on weekends when we usually close at 5.”

Vonnegut said around 10 to 15 people usually stay in the building after usual business hours when the county ordains it.

“When our libraries are open, we also welcome anyone taking shelter from the heat,” she said.

“People are welcome at the Senior Center as long as we’re open for operational hours,” said SuzAnne Nelson, Senior Center director of supportive services. “We don’t always have activities going on, but this weekend we’ll have the building open until 3.

“People are welcome all the time because the elderly especially are vulnerable to heat problems,” she said. “Anyone can participate in our activities if they are 60 or older.”

With facilities with free air conditioning closed on weekends, the county is looking at ways to offer expanded services, Vanderford said.

“We’re looking at ways to be innovative in trying to make sure those folks are protected,” Vanderford said. “We have various public facilities advertised for people to enter, and we want to make special arrangements during summer months like we do in the winter when we offer winter shelters.”



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