On any given night in our country, more than a half-million people are experiencing homelessness. The reasons that they end up sleeping on sidewalks, in cars or abandoned buildings are vast and varied, but inevitably were born from desperate situations and extreme hardships. In Santa Clarita, we are working to connect our neighbors experiencing homelessness with the resources and shelter they need, especially during these chilly winter months.
Over the past year, our community has made great strides in addressing homelessness. Under the leadership of the City Council, we formed the Homeless Task Force, made up of members of more than 30 local organizations. The Task Force meets monthly and works to complete the action items in the Community Plan to Address Homelessness. 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 creating local coordination.
Changes at Bridge To Home
Meanwhile, one of the primary homeless service providers in our city, Bridge to Home, has taken their shelter services from an emergency winter shelter to a year-round 24/7 operation. That means on any given night in Santa Clarita, there are 60 warm beds available for our neighbors experiencing homelessness. More big changes are in the works for the Bridge to Home Shelter located on Drayton Street. Currently, the facility is made up of portable buildings, as well as portable shower and toilet facilities. Big plans are underway to build an enhanced, permanent facility that will better accommodate the needs of our community’s homeless population.
This effort has truly been one of collaboration. Los Angeles County and 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger have been essential partners in this effort. In addition, our local faith-based organizations, nonprofits, medical providers, school districts, sheriff’s deputies and more, have all worked together to help make a true and lasting impact on homelessness in our community.
You can help
Now is the time for you to help as well. On Jan. 21, the annual point in time Homeless Count will take place in the Santa Clarita Valley. On this night, volunteers will travel throughout the community to identify those who are unsheltered. The number that comes from this count is one of the many tools available for our partners to help address homeless needs in our valley.
Why do we count? Since 2005, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) has been coordinating the Homeless Count across Los Angeles County. The information obtained provides a snapshot of who is experiencing homelessness and where they are located. The results of the annual count give us a starting point to measure the progress of our efforts toward ending homelessness. It also helps the amount of Measure H and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds that should be allocated to local homeless programs. The count also helps us better coordinate our local programs and services to maximize impact.
For our local count here in Santa Clarita, LAHSA is looking for 200 volunteers. To sign up, please visit TheyCountWillYou.org. Then, on the night of Jan. 21, you will report to The Centre, 20880 Center Pointe Parkway, where you will go through a training and orientation. The count is expected to last about four hours, during which teams will drive to predetermined locations to conduct a visual tally of unsheltered individuals. I encourage you to take a few hours out of your evening to help with this important program.
There is not one simple solution to end homelessness, but by working together, we can make progress to help those who need it most. To learn more about what the city is doing to address homelessness and read the community plan, please visit santa-clarita.com.
Mayor Cameron Smyth is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected]