Thankful for volunteers who make their time count

More than $1.5 million — that’s the economic impact of volunteer time generously given each year in Santa Clarita.

I want to offer my heartfelt appreciation to the thousands of volunteers who spend their free time helping others in our community. An example of that was the recent homeless count. On the evening of Jan. 22, we had nearly 100 local volunteers participate in the 2019 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count – a 25 percent increase in volunteers over last year.

Community members took time out of their busy evening to gather for training at The Centre, before dispersing in pairs to different locations throughout Santa Clarita to conduct a point-in-time count of the homeless population. These volunteers spent approximately four hours on a cold Tuesday night driving around town, in their own vehicles, to conduct visual tallies of individuals who were both sheltered and unsheltered.

With the help of local volunteers during the annual count, we are better able to gauge the ways in which future resources and programs will be allocated, with the goal of decreasing homelessness in our community. We heard from many of the volunteers that they’re compelled to come back every year and participate. After seeing those experiencing homelessness sleeping in the wash, in their cars or on the street, they want to be able to help make a positive impact.

The Point-in-Time Homeless Count is put on each year by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) in 85 cities and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. The amount of miles covered and support needed to do so is daunting. Without the help of dedicated volunteers, it would not be possible to complete the count in one evening.

This year’s count comes at a time when our community is on the cusp of making a marked difference for those experiencing homelessness in Santa Clarita. Most notably, the city acquired and transferred ownership of two pieces of property totaling over an acre of buildable land (valued at approximately $1 million) to Bridge to Home, our local leader in homeless services. That land grant allows Bridge to Home to work toward the goal of a new, permanent shelter open year-round.

I’m happy to report that Santa Clarita is a recent recipient of Measure H funds. Thanks to the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative and United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the city received $375,000 in the form of two awards. The city received $300,000 for property acquisition of interim family housing for Family Promise and $75,000 to put toward a homeless coordinator.  

While these funding opportunities are important, so is the work that our volunteers do for the homeless count and for other programs throughout the year. Residents who want to give their time have many options to do so in a meaningful way. Whether it’s by helping guests find their way around the Cowboy Festival in William S. Hart Park or serving as a water station volunteer during the Santa Clarita Marathon, the city’s event calendar is filled with ways to help out. The top-three categories that garner the most volunteer hours each year are our coaches, library volunteers and those who help out at events.

The city of Santa Clarita is committed to upholding a high quality of life for all residents. We do our best to provide the necessary resources, and when the community gets involved, it creates an even bigger impact.

If you are looking for additional short-term and long-term volunteer opportunities within the city, please visit SantaClaritaVolunteers.com.

Ken Striplin is the Santa Clarita City Manager and can be reached at kstriplin@santa-clarita.com. The views expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily those of The Signal

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