City sets hearing on property for Family Promise

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Local residents will have a chance to weigh in on whether the city of Santa Clarita should transfer a 32,200-square-foot vacant lot to Family Promise of SCV for affordable housing and office space. 

The property at 23652 Newhall Ave., valued at $1.6 million, was purchased by the city in 2010 with the intent to build a larger version of the current Three Oaks affordable housing development that sits adjacent to the vacant lot. 

City officials said Thursday the parcel was bought with “restricted redevelopment agency bond proceeds,” meaning that the property can only be used for transitional or affordable housing. The property transfer would happen at no cost to Family Promise should the City Council approve the move. 

The proposed project would include office space for homeless clients and four affordable housing units designed to have shared living spaces and separate bedrooms and bathrooms for each client, including those with large families. 

Housing would be for homeless clients or those who cannot afford their own place after graduating from Family Promise’s case management program, according to Roché Vermaak, the executive director of Family Promise. The need for housing is only increasing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. 

“We are seeing an uptick of people becoming homeless for the first time, even middle-class families that have lost their jobs and can’t pay their mortgages or those who are facing eviction. If you are 12 months behind on rent and your landlord wants the rent, how will you pay for it?” said Vermaak. 

Acquiring the lot after a lengthy, two-year search for a permanent location would help the nonprofit continue its services in a more appropriate setting, he added. 

“We rent an 800-square-foot youth lounge at a church, where we do it all: case management work; we have a tiny kitchen; store all of our supplies for clothing, baby supplies, etc.; and on the weekends, when our host sites are closed, our client families all hang out in the office and our volunteers hang out with them,” said Vermaak. “We want to continue offering these services, and all of those things become more possible with proper space.” 

The goal, he said, would be to bring more volunteers who can share a wider range of skills to homeless clients. 

“EBT cards are accepted at fast-food places and, when you don’t have a kitchen or access to cooking, that’s all you buy sometimes,” said Vermaak. “With a formal kitchen and volunteers, we can teach our clients healthy cooking and how to meal prep. We can have volunteers that can offer classes on financial literacy, how to improve and maintain good credit, exercise, tutoring, (and) psychology, but when you don’t have space, we struggle to give those opportunities.” 

Support to bring the project to fruition, should it be approved, stems from multiple avenues, including $300,000 in Measure H dollars granted from Los Angeles County to the city last year, specifically for interim family housing. Construction for the project would come from HomeAid Los Angeles and SCV-based Williams Homes, according to city officials. 

The proposal comes after the nonprofit acquired a two-story house in Castaic in September after an anonymous donor provided Family Promise with $750,000, and the home is now in use as transitional housing. 

A public hearing for the proposed property transfer is scheduled Nov. 10 during the City Council meeting. Members of the public will have a chance to participate via Zoom following the start of the meeting at 6 p.m. Details for tuning in are expected to become available on the city’s agenda page via 

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