Barger’s homelessness commission holds first meeting

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, representing the 5th district visits The Signal to discuss ideas and goals she plans to accomplish during her time as chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Gilbert Bernal/The Signal

The Los Angeles County Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness held its inaugural meeting Wednesday morning online. 

The commission was established to prepare a report in six months’ time that analyzes homelessness governance reports, studies models from across the nation for addressing homelessness and recommends reforms for solving homelessness in Los Angeles County. 

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose district includes the Santa Clarita Valley, wrote the motion that created the commission in July. 

She helped open the meeting with remarks that characterized homelessness as a “major crisis” requiring “deep analysis and critical solutions.” 

“I believe it’s time and this is an opportunity to look at making some major changes to the system, which is why we are all here today,” she said. “We’ve seen firsthand that the status quo is no longer working. And we know that the one-size-fits-all approach toward homelessness strategies has failed many communities and it’s failing those languishing on our streets.” 

Barger told commissioners that they have a critical role to play in achieving the “goal of improving our homeless services system and helping individuals transition to housing.” 

“I know this is not a small task, but each of you has been selected because you bring to the table solutions and opportunities for this county to move forward to address those most in need,” she said in her address to commission. 

The commission, which will meet every two weeks, includes members appointed by the Board of Supervisors, the city of Los Angeles and the California Contract Cities Association, of which the city of Santa Clarita is a member. However, the commission does not include a member who is resident of the Santa Clarita Valley.  

“I am completely confident that this diverse group of leaders will be able to approach this crisis with a sense of urgency and compassion required to make lasting changes,” Barger said, noting the commission includes “internal and external leaders.” 

In addition to providing “long-lasting reform,” the commission, Barger said, “will help restore confidence in the county’s approach toward homelessness, especially if we want to ask our residents to support a second round of Measure H in the future.” 

In 2017, county voters supported Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax increase, that has raised $355 million each year since then and will continue to do so until 2027. The revenue supports homeless services, rental subsidies and housing. 

The Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative allocated $126,493 in Measure H funding to the city of Santa Clarita last year. The city then distributed that amount to six local organizations serving homeless individuals in Santa Clarita. 

In July 2020, Santa Clarita counted 168 homeless people, a decrease from the 258 counted in 2019.  

“Bridge to Home, however, identified more than 1,000 unduplicated clients in 2019,” according to the website of the Santa Clarita Valley Task Force on Homeless, a coalition of local nonprofits and the city of Santa Clarita focused on addressing homelessness in the city. 

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