The Santa Clarita City Council reviewed Tuesday its drafted community plan to address homelessness, unanimously voting to move forward with the formation of a task force as the next step.
After hearing a compressed version of the 15-goal plan by Jerrid McKenna, assistant to the city manager, the council agreed to the formation of a collaborative task force to accomplish action items.
The task force will form a workgroup led by representatives from multiple agencies, including the Sheriff’s Station, the Santa Clarita Valley Mental Health Center and Bridge to Home.
“This is a really good start,” said Mayor Laurene Weste.
The plan details that the city should use local stakeholders to form the task force and assist administratively in providing a successful organizational structure for its operation. The task force can then “dissolve or remain active as an oversight committee to ensure adequate services and resources are provided to the community.”
The plan, as stated in the draft, intends to “align city resources, including the nonprofit and private sector organizations in the city and county investments.”
In developing the plan, the city needed a comprehensive analysis on current homelessness services to identify gaps and other issues, in which research firm Analytic Insight LLC helped by conducting a strategic planning event among stakeholders in May.
Stakeholders found that the areas of greatest need include a year-round emergency shelter, affordable housing options and centralized leadership and organization.
Peggy Edwards, president of the board of Bridge to Home, said during the public comment session, she is happy with the work done so far and looks forward to having the nonprofit be a part of the task force.
“I want to thank you for the plan,” she said. “It’s a great plan, but we have a lot of detail to fill.”
Edwards said that part of that included updating the homeless count presented in the plan, which said the 2017 Point-In-Time, or PIT, count listed more than 300 homeless individuals and about 50 percent less for 2018.
She explained that the there is a disconnect with the current PIT count as Bridge to Home alone is working with more than 600 cases on homeless families and individuals.
Laurie Ender, president of the Family Promise of SCV board of directors, agreed, saying research she and her team have conducted showed there are more than 700 homeless students in the Santa Clarita Valley, many of them “couch-surfing.”
Councilman Bob Kellar said he’d like to see collaboration with local churches in the plan to help fill gaps, as “they can play a very strong home.”
Kellar and Edwards shared how interactions with homeless individuals in the community show that “we need to do all we can to impact the amount of homelessness and support many of our good citizens,” as Kellar said.
Councilman Cameron Smyth agreed, saying the city and all those involved in the executing the plan “have an opportunity to get ahead of this so that if numbers grow, we can provide services.”
City Manager Ken Striplin said the next step is to have the ad hoc committee, which is comprised of Smyth and Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean, establish the task force and organize its membership.