For every person who ends up living on the streets, the set of circumstances that brought them there is as varied as the resources needed to assist them. Which is why, when addressing the issue of homelessness, the approach must be multi-pronged.
Our Homeless Ad Hoc Committee of the Santa Clarita City Council continues to work with our community partners and Los Angeles County to improve the state of homelessness. In 2017, the committee was formed to discuss and work toward the most effective strategies for addressing homelessness in our city. The committee meets regularly to collaborate with stakeholders from the Santa Clarita Valley and beyond — including homeless care providers, advocates, social workers and other partners.
Many of those strategies will be laid out in a homeless action plan that will be embraced and implemented through community collaboration with local service providers. A draft of the plan will be available to the public for comment beginning on Wednesday, July 11, through Wednesday, Aug. 22, at Santa-Clarita.com.
Many services and resources are being delivered daily by nearly 30 nonprofit organizations through hundreds of volunteers in Santa Clarita. This plan will build upon the strong collaboration that has existed on the issue of homelessness and create a comprehensive set of strategies to make a significant impact in the community.
In anticipation of the final plan, the City Council has been actively working to support our local nonprofit organizations to improve and expand their services. Most notably, the city recently transferred $1 million worth of land to Bridge to Home, our local lead homeless service provider, where plans are already underway to build a permanent, year-round homeless shelter.
Another piece of the puzzle is how to provide more opportunities for affordable housing in the city. We are thrilled that our first affordable housing project, an approximately $5 million city investment, is now home to 30 families. There have been several senior affordable housing projects that have come through the City Council, that the council has not only approved, but also has supported and subsidized in some form or fashion. 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.
At the June 26 meeting, your City Council approved amendments to regulations that had been in place for years. The updated language allows city amenities to be included in the list of locations, such as the new parking structure in Old Town Newhall and city facilities, in addition to landscaped medians and slopes.
The goal of the updated language was to allow city staff, and our partners, to address individuals who are in need of services, while also maintaining public rights-of-ways and preventing damage to public property. These regulations do not prohibit anyone from sitting or lying down on the turf/grass at any of our 34 beautiful parks and they do not apply to private property. So please enjoy your summertime picnics and of course, Concerts in the Park (which kick off tonight!). The regulations do seek to prevent people from sleeping in planter areas and landscaped areas such as medians and slopes. It also is intended to prevent people from blocking the public rights-of-way, such as sidewalks, and to allow people, especially those with disabilities, access to public areas, such as bus stops.
These amendments will not criminalize the homeless. Violations will be treated the same way they have been for the past several years. Enforcement staff works to educate and put the individual in touch with services and resources, before any sort of enforcement action is taken. This process generally happens over several interactions, with the goal of assisting individuals in need.
These regulations are another tool to encourage service connections, keep our rights-of-way passable for all, and allow our beautiful city landscaping to flourish, all while keeping the health and safety of the entire community a top priority.
The city is committed to maintaining a high quality of life for our community while maintaining an environment where everyone feels welcome, and has an opportunity to thrive. Homelessness does exist in Santa Clarita, as it does across our nation and around the globe, and the path to addressing homelessness in our city will not be an easy or fast one. However, by working together as a community, it is a goal that we will reach together.
Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean and Councilman Cameron Smyth serve on the city of Santa Clarita’s Homeless Ad Hoc Committee.