‘The Advocates’ screening sparks homelessness discussion among residents

A pannel of experts discuss homelessness following a screening of the documentary "The Advocates" at the Centre in Canyon Country Wednesday night. Cory Rubin/The SIgnal

About 600,000 Los Angeles County residents are spending 90% or more of their income on housing, according to a 2018 report by the nonprofit Economic Roundtable. 

“One earthquake, one hiccup in the stock market or one slight recession could suddenly make the population that I’m talking about from 600,000 to maybe 1 million,” Rudy Salinas, outreach director with Housing Works, said Wednesday during a homelessness panel discussion for a film screening of “The Advocates” at The Centre. 

About 20 residents chimed in on the conversation, covering the countywide homelessness crisis, as displayed in the documentary, and what Santa Clarita can do to address the growing issue.

The 2019 point-in-time count for Santa Clarita reported an increase to 256 homeless individuals from the 156 counted last year, although local experts say the count is well below the actual figure.  

“The vast majority of us are maybe one trauma or maybe one less helping hand away from ourselves being homeless and it’s not because we’re lazy, it’s not because we’re not working. All it takes is one catastrophic illness, job loss,” said resident and attendee Linda Zuchegna.  

The event, organized by the nonprofit United Way of Greater Los Angeles, offered information on how local residents can advocate for more affordable and supportive housing in Santa Clarita as part of its “Everyone In” campaign, which “believes that homes end homelessness,” according to Corinne Ho, a field organizer for Everyone In. 

“A crucial part of realizing that goal is building community support in every neighborhood for solutions we know work,” she added. “We are committed to supporting Santa Clarita residents and offering tools for the community to mobilize and demand action for more affordable and supportive housing in the area.”

The city of Santa Clarita has received $375,000 in Measure H funding for supportive housing and a homeless coordinator, as well as formed its own homeless task force, but attendees said more is needed. 

Panelists, including “The Advocates” director Remi Kessler, encouraged residents to let their voices be heard in unison by speaking at a City Council meeting and advocating for solutions that work for Santa Clarita. 

To learn more about the campaign, visit everyoneinla.org and for more on the documentary, visit cinemalibrestudio.com/the-advocates

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