The Santa Clarita City Council heard a presentation Tuesday on a series of new proposals to tackle local homelessness, with council members stating that the new plans should be able to return more of the millions of dollars given to Measure H back to local residents.
During the presentation, the council heard from Community Preservation Manager Michael Villegas, who presented a report from the Santa Clarita Community Task Force on Homelessness, providing recommendations on how the city should proceed in addressing the homelessness crisis through June 2024.
Following a three-year review of the previous work conducted by the task force, which developed its first Community Action Plan in 2018, Villegas said the city was able to report that it had accomplished its initial goals.
Villegas stated the task force had helped in establishing two safe drug disposal and sharp needle drop off locations at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station as well as Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.
The task force, since its inception, according to Villegas, has also created a website dedicated to the efforts of the task force that contains key information on local service providers as well as resource guides available to service providers.
The city also provided six grants ranging from $15,000 to $22,000 to local organizations, including College of the Canyons, which completed a feasibility study for student housing, and Bridge to Home, which initiated the process of a shared housing model.
Villegas said the city also completed extensive outreach programs, including a landlord summit, enhanced collaboration with local school districts and also donated parcels of land plus $2 million to Bridge to Home so that the organization could complete its year-round homeless shelter.
Moving forward, the city said the new plan consisted of 12 key action items that included increasing legislative and government advocacy, grant applying, increasing interagency partnerships, and creating the framework for a by-name registry, which will “centralize client information, streamline services and eliminate duplication of efforts,” according to Villegas.
Other key initiatives for the new plan include increasing support and services related to mental health and substance abuse issues, exploring permanent supportive housing options through extensive research on programs and funding opportunities, and enhancing workforce and life skill training for those reentering the job market.
The sixth aspect they hope to see come to fruition in the coming years is improved awareness campaigns on local homeless issues through social media campaigns and outreach efforts, Villegas said.
Councilman Cameron Smyth said that a big component of the new plan was to ensure that the city could find as many ways as possible to bring tax dollars back to the Santa Clarita area.
According to city officials, Santa Clarita residents have paid $26.5 million in taxes under Measure H, a 2017 L.A. County ballot initiative that created a 0.25% county sales tax for 10 years in order to fund homeless services and prevention in the county. Of that, only $674,986 has made it back to the Santa Clarita Valley to fund homeless services.
When discussing the number of homeless people in the city of Santa Clarita, the report cites the January 2020 Point-In-Time Count conducted by The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), which said there were 168 local persons identified as homeless.
“(The LAHSA count) has been, no pun intended, a point of frustration, because LAHSA puts a lot of weight to it and it’s required,” said Smyth. “But it is very misrepresentative of the total count.”
“So, we might as well do what we can to bring it (tax money) into Santa Clarita,” he added.