SCV officials discuss Measure H impact

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

While it’s difficult to say exactly how many dollars came to the Santa Clarita Valley, local officials working to end homelessness have said Measure H, the countywide quarter-cent sales tax approved by voters in March 2017 to combat and prevent homelessness, has created avenues for local agencies and the county to expand resources.

Los Angeles County released a report Friday on the progress of the first full year of funding from Measure H.

“It’s provided leverage for local agencies to get more dollars, but the real leveraging is happening at the county level,” said Peggy Edwards, Bridge to Home’s executive director, noting the shelter’s operating budget has increased by about $400,000 in the year since Measure H was passed.

Edwards used the example of a housing unit that’s on the shelter’s proposed project list, that’s expected to be funded, to explain the challenge in defining Measure H’s impact on the SCV: “We are going to get $680,000 to build a family unit when we build our new facility, so we applied for those monies under a request for proposal,” she said. So while SCV homeless officials expect to get that money, how and when the funding is released is more difficult to determine.

“We have contracts with the county, some of which are funded by Measure H, some partially by Measure H,” she said. “But our contracts are to deliver services. How the county pays for it sometimes isn’t clear. Programs don’t just apply to get Measure H funds, they apply to get services.”

For example, some of the funds have been used to supplement case workers provided through Los Angeles Family Housing, or LAFH, one of Bridge to Home’s partners, Edwards said, which supports local services — but local officials wouldn’t necessarily know how much of LAFH’s dollars came from Measure H, only that there was an expansion of service.

Edwards said another example of the contracts’ complexities are with the county’s Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which gives the shelter $30 per bed per night to operate the shelter from November to April. That total recently went up from $20, she said, but it is unclear if it is due to Measure H.

There are multiple additional challenges facing those trying to help the homeless in the Santa Clarita Valley, which are demonstrated by BTH’s request for its additional family unit. The county has received more requests than it has money for, meaning the funding for that project will have to come from more than just Measure H, Edwards said. And the money is apportioned by the number of homeless individuals — however, there are significant questions about the actual number of homeless individuals living in the area, making it extremely difficult for officials to fully address the need they can’t exactly quantify.

The breakdown of Measure H funds is by the county’s eight service planning areas, said Dana Vanderford, homeless services deputy for county 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger. Resources are distributed to areas with relatively higher concentrations of homeless people, she said.

The major challenges in tracking and following up on the homeless population, particularly in a more rural area such as the Santa Clarita Valley, makes the count hard to tally, which is in large part how services are determined.

The Santa Clarita Valley is in SPA 2, which also includes the San Fernando Valley. That SPA saw 98 homeless individuals given permanent supportive housing, 50 individuals linked to permanent housing resources, and 162 individuals in crisis or bridge housing, according to the report.

Los Angeles County’s Homeless Services Authority counted about 161 homeless individuals in the Santa Clarita Valley over three days in late January.

However, the county’s number is not representative of the homeless population in need in the SCV, Edwards said. Edwards said the shelter is currently helping 375 clients with case management to move into permanent housing, a number higher than the LAHSA snapshot in time.

The city of Santa Clarita is still gathering public feedback for its Community Plan to Address Homelessness until next Wednesday.

The review period, which began July 11, has yielded detailed responses for the city to figure out the best way to target homelessness, said city Communications Manager Carrie Lujan.

One of the plan’s strategies strongly under consideration is creation of a by-name registry to document names of people experiencing homelessness, Lujan said.

“This method collects and maintains real-time data,” she said. “It lists everyone who’s experiencing homelessness in the community.”

Additionally, a community task force with stakeholders is one of the plan’s foremost strategies. The task force would be responsible for ensuring the plan’s progress in addressing homelessness, she said.

The city received a $50,000 planning grant to come up with the plan from Los Angeles County and United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

The City Council will review the plan once it ends its recess Aug. 28.


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