Santa Clarita City Council approves fund increase to encampment clean-up services

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Santa Clarita City Council approved an amendment to its existing contract with Woods Maintenance Services for encampment cleanup services in the amount of $50,000, for a total contract amount not to exceed $200,000 annually for the current one-year contract and the two additional one-year renewal options. 

City Council members unanimously approved the amendment as part of a list of items under their consent calendar agenda during Tuesday’s meeting. 

“We [City Council] don’t decide what goes on consent calendar, but every item has gone over in depth. We read everything,” Mayor Laurene Weste said. “The public also has a right to read it, the agenda is posted well in advance of the city meeting.” 

“If there’s questions, that’s why you can pull any item from consent, if you want to talk about it. And I didn’t have any concerns about the information as I read it.” 

However, a few public speakers addressed the City Council hoping they would reconsider and remove this particular item for further discussion.  

“Why are we destroying encampments, evicting homeless residents when we only have 60 emergency shelter beds?” said Kody Amour, who said he is homeless and running for City Council. “My housing navigator told me we have some 1,000 homeless residents in the city right now. Most of them go unseen. This is the kind of operation that ruins their homes.” 

Another public speaker commented that the contract should be surrounded by a larger discussion on specifications of the City Council’s efforts on the issue of homelessness rather than applying “Band-Aid” solutions to a much larger problem.  

According to the agenda item, the city of Santa Clarita will authorize ongoing appropriations of $83,000 from the general fund, which would increase the annual base budget from $117,000 to $200,000 to cover the new contract amount. 

“The first thing to note is it’s really our responsibility, along with the Sanitation District, to keep the river clean of human waste and debris, because half of our drinking comes from underneath that river,” Weste said. 

Some homeless encampments are in the riverbeds of the Santa Clarita Valley. 

It’s important to clean trash out of the river with volunteers, or having a service like WMS to clear out encampments, to maintain as much cleanliness and health of the natural areas of the river for public health protection, Weste added.  

The city of Santa Clarita approved a contract with WMS in December 2021 and it took effect at the start of 2022. Since then, WMS completed three large-scale cleanups, which took four days on average to complete at a total cost of $137,587. 

“During Fiscal Year 2021-22, staff in the city’s Community Preservation division addressed 408 cases related to homelessness, a 37% increase when compared to the previous fiscal year, while also seeing 30% increase in encampment cleanup costs during the same time frame.” 

According to the agenda, city staff noted the contract limit has almost been reached with just five months left in the calendar year and recommended to the City Council to increase the contract amount in order to meet the needs of the community. 

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