Santa Clarita has long been considered a safe and nurturing suburbia to raise a family, but under this facade there hides an ugly truth. The city of Santa Clarita reported in 2018 that in one public school district alone there were over 300 reported homeless students.
In other words, more than 300 families in just one of our school districts are homeless. But this is not the entirety of the Santa Clarita Valley’s homeless population. Many students at other school districts and at College of the Canyons find themselves in this predicament; an accurate population number is impossible to obtain. Shame and stigma surround this state of living and often citizens will not report themselves as homeless.
I say not that homelessness threatens our community, but that our community threatens our homeless. Comments on articles reporting recent legislation and plans to help our homeless citizens out have received hateful comments regarding these individuals, fostering a hostile environment for those struggling to reach out for help. The Santa Clarita community must work to understand how homelessness really happens in the SCV.
I am a high school student, a community college student, and friends with people Santa Clarita would never consider “homeless” at first glance. Not until recently did I find out one of my peers in high school was homeless last year. She and her mother found themselves homeless after they left a toxic household filled with hateful words and dysfunction. She slept in her mother’s car, sometimes on people’s couches, and sometimes at work. She carried three backpacks with her: one for school, one for work, and one for hygiene. She was aware of the agencies available to provide her help but feared the shame of accepting these resources. Eventually, she took a leap of faith and got help from our high school. There was no year-round shelter for her to stay at in Santa Clarita, but they could help her get the basics: feminine supplies, food and other necessities. My friend described being homeless as a black hole; she felt alone. She described being homeless like being on autopilot; she just kept pushing. More importantly, she described the people she came to know who were also homeless, each struggling to stay in good mental health and working to fight their situation.
Homelessness is surrounded by an immense amount of stereotypes. It is often caused by abuse, not drug use or felonies. It is extremely common among California students, and many homeless men and women fight to escape their situation, not sit back and live off of the little help provided to them. Our community often fails to acknowledge the hidden populations, who are afraid to admit their situation because of the hate people show toward them.
Our community often fails to search for truth, relying on stereotypes and ignoring the children who are sucked into the black hole that is homelessness. We, as a society, must work to see the truth behind homelessness. Then, and only then, will we truly be a safe and nurturing suburbia.