Coronavirus: City works with Bridge to Home in transferring homeless shelter to Newhall Community Center

The Newhall Community Center Courtesy of the city of Santa Clarita
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In a joint effort to enhance the safety of the local homeless population amid the coronavirus outbreak, Bridge to Home is set to temporarily transfer its homeless shelter to the Newhall Community Center. 

The move came after the city of Santa Clarita, which oversees the community center, entered into an agreement with Bridge to Home, a local nonprofit that operates as the only homeless shelter in the Santa Clarita Valley. 

From its current location on Drayton Street to the Newhall Community Center about 3 miles away, Bridge to Home will be able to continue its operations, including sheltering 60 individuals who are experiencing homelessness, while practicing social distancing and other necessary safety measures. 

“Our current shelter is very tight quarters so we’re very grateful to the city for allowing us to move our operations to the Newhall Community Center temporarily, which will allow all of our homeless residents to have the space they need and also to have ample space for isolation as there may be a need,” said Bridge to Home Director Michael Foley. 

People who are experiencing homelessness are among the most at risk of the virus, which has prompted municipalities on the local and global level to address the issue. 

“The homeless population is considered at high risk of contracting the coronavirus due to limited access to hygiene facilities,” Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth said in a statement. “By taking proactive measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, we are lessening the strain on our crucial medical resources.”

The move and setup at the community center are expected to commence Wednesday and those currently sheltering with Bridge to Home will transfer Thursday morning, said Foley. 

Based on the county’s current order to stay at home, the temporary relocation is expected to last through April 19. 

The city’s agreement comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced he would release $150 million in emergency funds to protect the state’s homeless populations, two-thirds of which he said will go to local governments for emergency shelter support and housing.

In Santa Clarita, a 2019 homeless count revealed there were 256 homeless individuals without shelter, though the local homeless task force believes the figure is significantly higher. For perspective, the Newhall School District alone reported nearly 140 homeless students earlier this year, according to District Superintendent Jeff Pelzel. 

As the outbreak began to spread in Southern California, Foley said Bridge to Home has safely conducted outreach to inform those experiencing homelessness to take the same precautions issued by health officials. 

Bridge to Home’s efforts to house people is not remotely ending, he reiterated. 

With operations still continuing and with a transfer to a larger space that will require extra cleaning and care, the nonprofit is seeking donations and supplies. 

“Any and all donations and contributions are gratefully received, particularly as we have additional costs for security, housekeeping and keeping everything sanitary and clean,” he said. 

For more information about Bridge to Home or to donate, visit btohome.org. For all local coronavirus-related stories, visit: signalscv.com/2020/03/covid-19-coverage-summary.

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