Community Task Force on Homelessness — getting down to business

There is no singular reason why people experience homelessness. There is a long sequence of events, tragedies, illnesses and unexpected obstacles that lead individuals to a life without a place to call home.

No matter the reasons or factors, the goal is the same — find a way to get our neighbors, who are experiencing homelessness, the resources and shelter they need.

This was the goal when I recommended the formation of a City Council Ad Hoc Committee on Homeless Issues back in 2017. The goal was to discuss and work toward the most effective strategies for addressing homelessness in our city.

To make this committee a success — and have a true and lasting impact on homelessness in our community — it needed to be a community effort. Gathering together the key stakeholders and service providers in Santa Clarita, we worked with a consultant to create a community plan to address homelessness.

With the many services and resources currently being delivered daily by nearly 30 nonprofit organizations through hundreds of volunteers in Santa Clarita, the plan needed to enhance collaboration and reduce duplication of efforts.

This plan builds upon the strong collaboration that has existed on the issue of homelessness and creates a comprehensive set of strategies to make a significant impact in the community.

The first action item within the plan, which has already been checked off the list, is the creation of the Community Task Force on Homelessness.

This task force has now met three times, and has handled the administrative issues, such as electing an executive board and adopting bylaws. With this foundation, the task force is ready to get to work.

The action items within the plan have been broken out into five categories, which will be focused on by five committees. The five categories are: Preventing Homelessness, Increasing Income, Subsidized Housing, Increasing Affordable/Homeless Housing and Create Local Coordination.

I’m also thrilled to see that Measure H dollars are flowing to cities across Los Angeles County. I am happy to report that Santa Clarita is a recent recipient of $375,000 thanks to the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative and United Way of Greater Los Angeles. These funds come in addition to the more than $1 million of Measure H funding that was given to Bridge to Home in 2018 for homeless services.

Santa Clarita received two awards as part of this next funding cycle that help fund two specific action items in the local community plan.

The city received $300,000 for property acquisition of interim family housing for Family Promise and $75,000 to put toward a homeless coordinator. The homeless coordinator will be responsible for administrative oversight of the plan for the next 18 months.

This new funding allocation aligns with the county’s partnership with cities to develop innovative solutions to homelessness at the local level. We look forward to sharing more about exactly how these funds will be used in the next couple months.

As far as the current state of homelessness — local volunteers recently participated in the 2019 Homeless Count.

Volunteers drove every street in our city to get a point-in-time count. The official figure for the 2018 count pegged Santa Clarita’s homeless population at 161.

While we know this figure underrepresents the known homeless population in Santa Clarita, this count will be used as one of the many tools in addressing homelessness in our community.

Meanwhile, our service providers continue to work toward getting people housed. At Bridge to Home, year-end statistics for 2018 show an increase over 2017 in the number of clients served.

In 2017, Bridge to Home had 189 unduplicated clients. In 2018, it had 672 — an increase of 255 percent. Bridge to Home also had a successful year placing clients in permanent housing.

In 2017, a total of 28 individuals and families were placed, while in 2018, a total of 44 were placed — an increase of 57 percent.

There is still much work to do to assist all people in need, and we look forward to our longstanding partnership with Bridge to Home to provide these much-needed services locally.

Bridge to Home and Family Promise are the lead homeless service providers in our community. However, I know there are many other nonprofits and churches that help homeless individuals and families on a daily basis.

It is this widespread generosity throughout the community that makes Santa Clarita such a unique place and a true role model for cities across the nation in addressing complex issues like homelessness.

These statistics and exciting new funding opportunities will allow the Community Task Force on Homelessness, and our local service providers, to make a true and lasting impact on homelessness in our community.

To find out what you can do to help, please visit santa-clarita.com/homeless.

Mayor Pro Tem Cameron Smyth is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected]

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