By Mayor Cameron Smyth
It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to be unsheltered this time of year. The weather has turned downright chilly, and some nights drops below freezing. Days blow by with strong gusts of wind or are soaked with everything from light sprinkles to all-out downpours. For our neighbors, who for one reason or another, are experiencing homelessness, winter can be a bleak time full of hardships.
While homelessness continues to be a major challenge across the southland and the nation, I am proud of the progress we have made here in Santa Clarita. Back in 2017, I recommended the formation of a City Council Ad Hoc Committee on Homeless Issues with a goal to discuss and work toward the most effective strategies for addressing homelessness in our City.
Thanks to a planning grant from the County of Los Angeles, the City hired a research group to develop a comprehensive solutions plan. Gathering together the key stakeholders and service providers in Santa Clarita, consultants spent months researching and conducting meetings and interviews, which led to the creation of a Community Plan to Address Homelessness.
With the many services and resources being delivered daily by nearly 30 nonprofit organizations through hundreds of volunteers in Santa Clarita — the plan enhanced collaboration and reduced duplication of efforts. This was done through the creation of a Community Task Force on Homelessness. This group has been meeting monthly over the past year, taking on the action items within the plan, which have been broken out into five categories. The five categories are Preventing Homelessness, Increasing Income, Subsidized Housing, Increasing Affordable/Homeless Housing and Create Local Coordination.
In addition to the work our community is doing, Measure H dollars are flowing to cities across Los Angeles County. Santa Clarita was a recent recipient of $375,000 thanks to the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative and United Way of Greater Los Angeles, $75,000 of which funds a homeless coordinator and $300,000 goes toward property acquisition of interim family housing for Family Promise. An agenda item regarding this property will be brought to the City Council shortly.
Meanwhile, at Bridge to Home, our community’s primary homeless services provider, great strides have been made which have enhanced services, capacity and facilities. Last spring, Bridge to Home did not close the doors of their emergency winter shelter as they had done for the previous two decades. Instead, they increased their operation, now providing shelter and resources every single day and night, all year long. In addition, plans are underway to replace the current shelter facilities, which consists of portable units, with an enhanced permanent structure.
All of this progress comes as we prepare for the annual Homeless Count coming up this Tuesday night, Jan. 21. The results of the annual count give us a starting point to measure the progress of our efforts toward ending homelessness. It also helps determine the amount of Measure H and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds that should be allocated to local homeless programs. The Santa Clarita Valley Homeless County will start off at The Centre, 20880 Center Pointe Parkway. Volunteers can sign up at TheyCountWillYou.org.
Please join us for this important event, which will help us better coordinate our local programs and services to maximize impact. Together we can make a true and lasting impact on homelessness in our community, helping our most vulnerable neighbors find their way back to housing.
Mayor Cameron Smyth is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council and can be reached at [email protected]
santa-clarita.com. The views expressed in her column are those of the city and do not necessarily reflect those of The Signal.