Understanding the homelessness plan’s coming task force

Santa Clarita City Hall is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. File Photo

The Santa Clarita City Council has reviewed its draft homelessness plan and authorized the formation of a collaborative task force to help execute its goals.

But what exactly will the group do, and do members of the community believe this will work?

On Tuesday, City Council members approved the first in a timeline of 21 action items stretching into mid-September 2021:

Why a task force?

As stated in the plan, a community task force is necessary “for enhancing collaborative opportunities,” meaning achieving goals will require community help.

Jerrid McKenna, an assistant to the city manager, said Wednesday a task force is vital “because the issues of homelessness are so diverse. It requires a diverse set of stakeholders that are already dealing with (homelessness) locally to organize and implement all items and solve this successfully.”

He added that the task force would be made up of representatives from 30 organizations including from the city, Santa Clarita Valley school districts, the SCV Sheriff’s Station, Family Promise and the SCV Mental Health Center.

City staff, based on the plan, will take the lead in establishing the group.

What happens after it’s formed?

From there the next steps will be to adopt bylines, carry out routine meetings and create subcommittees to help continue evaluation of action items.

Each stakeholder will be tasked to tackle at least one of the five topic areas in the plan, which are titled, “Preventing Homelessness,” “Increasing Income,” “Subsidized Housing,” “Increase Affordable Housing” and “Creating Local Coordination.”

For example, under “Preventing Homelessness,” the plan details that one of the ways to help individuals or families avoid this is by reaching out to school district personnel. The task force will develop a working definition for “at-risk of homelessness,” plan training curricula and administer training. This work will be divided by representatives of the school districts and the city manager’s office.

Ultimate responsibility

With a series of action items ahead over the course of several years, the task force’s job will be to ensure “adequate services and resources are provided to the community,” as stated in the plan.

How will this be enforced?

McKenna said he is not aware that there will be enforcement but does know there will be a discussion. “That level of engagement and shared responsibility will be the backbone through discussion. All experts will hold each other accountable,” he added.  

Opposing views

While the council reviewed and agreed with moving forward with the plan, some members of the public expressed their dissatisfaction Tuesday.

Alan Ferdman said during public comment that he did not agree with some of the strategies the task force would utilize to tackle the issue, pointing out specifically to the “Preventing Homelessness” topic.

“I think that there are a lot of things that are lacking in the plan,” he said. “I don’t know how we can talk about only try and determine the potential of people being homeless using schools when at least half of our population don’t have children in schools. It’s not going to work that way.”

He said part of the problem with the plan comes from the fact that “it’s been kept in a small group,” referring to the ad hoc committee on homelessness issues, formed by the council in 2017, leading the plan with the help of the research firm Analytic Insight LLC.

Ferdman and others, including Laurie Ender, president of the board of directors of Family Promise, agreed the current homeless count on the plan was inaccurate, and should be updated to reflect better what the SCV is trying to address.

McKenna said in response Wednesday that the figures, collected by a point-in-time count, provide a baseline, not an overall number. “When looking at, ‘Are we effectively addressing homelessness?’ We are more inclined to use data by our local organizations. This will be a great tool for the task force, which is part of the plan to have a more accurate count,” he said.

Ender didn’t entirely agree with some of Ferdman’s points, noting the plan is ideal for this area in particular and believes the issue can be addressed now that stakeholders will come together and meet under one roof.

She added that this creates strong communication not only among themselves but also with the public, thanks to the creation of an online hub of information for those needing assistance and those who would like to help someone facing homelessness, titled Homeless Coordination (www.santa-clarita.com/city-hall/departments/city-manager-s-office/homeless-coordination).

Overall takeaway

McKenna said that the issue of homelessness would probably never be eliminated. On Tuesday, Councilman Bob Kellar agreed, saying it may not end in the SCV or elsewhere as there are individuals who chose to be homeless.

Nonetheless, the role of the task force is to tackle all action items to see a drop in the homeless count.

The task force can either dissolve or remain active as an oversight committee once the plan has reached its estimated action item end on 2021, according to the plan.

For more information and to see the complete draft of the homelessness plan, visit www.santa-clarita.com/Home/ShowDocument?id=15984.

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