Homelessness in California is not a new phenomenon. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates nearly 134,000 homeless people reside in California, and the epicenter of this crisis is right here in Los Angeles County, estimated near 55,000 people, over 30 percent higher than last year’s number.
Comparatively, here in Santa Clarita our homeless population is far below that of Los Angeles, with a recent count of 331 individuals compared to an overall population of roughly 225,000 people. Despite these numbers and a city that has not become inundated with tent-filled sidewalks, aggressive panhandling in our thoroughfares, or large homeless encampments in public spaces, updating of Title 14 of the municipal code for the continual mitigation of such instances at both existing and new facilities were openly criticized at our June 26 City Council meeting. Public participants suggested that the council and city staff were taking a one-tiered approach to addressing homelessness and failing to work with the county and community to not just shuffle them along, but to secure housing and services.
As a candidate for City Council, I felt this issue deserved more than a three-minute rebuking for political gain, but a thorough review of what is being done to protect the health and welfare of all our citizens.
Our city and the fantastic quality of life here is no accident. City staff, nonprofits, church groups, and volunteers work year-round to improve the lives for everyone wanting to call Santa Clarita home. From a governance standpoint, the council formed an ad-hoc committee focused solely on addressing homelessness, arranging meetings that included people and agencies from the valley and surrounding areas who deal with homelessness continually. The city brought these entities to the table to discuss, address, and most importantly, formulate a plan to combat homelessness from multiple angles. Just this past week the city released a draft community plan to address homelessness, where the topics of prevention, local coordination and training, and ways to increase income and affordable housing options are discussed.
But even before the culmination of the ad-hoc committee meetings into the draft plan, the city had taken strategic steps to provide resources and support to agencies that deal with homelessness. Just last year the city gave land to Bridge to Home, and purchased an adjacent piece of property, so the facility can expand to a year-round shelter, and be eligible to receive Measure H funding. A family-affordable housing development was constructed in Newhall, with the city providing considerable land and funding, which now houses low-income families in our community. While Santa Clarita is well known for its fiscal conservancy, these are examples of large investments into local avenues that have helped and will continue to serve those in our community who struggle with bare minimums we perhaps take for granted and are blessed to have in our own lives.
I believe what occurred at this meeting was simply a display of partisanship, and it sadly is done to the detriment of our community. Those with more liberal philosophies denigrated the actions taken by this ordinance update as simply a means of shuffling the most vulnerable in our valley out of town and becoming “someone else’s problem,” while demanding we must provide more resources and housing options for everyone in need. Those with more conservative philosophies applaud the ordinance update, as simply allowing transients to set up camp in any public place of their choosing will lead to an influx of more homeless, putting the health and welfare of the community at risk. I believe to best address this issue, politics must be left aside, and all avenues of preventing, helping and curbing homeless need to be utilized, else we will simply use those who are suffering in our community to espouse ideologies that will not provide real solutions.
Homelessness and the end goal of its eradication in our community is a challenge that must continue to be dealt with from all fronts. As your city councilman, I will be both an advocate for the resources and platform necessary to drive our community plan forward, and an active participant working with our nonprofits, school districts, and elected representatives at all levels to unite and find solutions that will be for the betterment of everyone in our community.