The Santa Clarita City Council on Tuesday recommended Councilman Cameron Smyth to the L.A. County Executive Committee on Homelessness, a group proposed by 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger back in August.
In volunteering for the appointment, Smyth said it’s important the city has a “seat at the table” to discuss solutions for such a complex issue, and that the new board could be an opportunity to exchange ideas in both directions.
He also said the city could bring a “different voice” to the body, as the city has had some success in creating partnerships to work on an issue that has by many measures gotten worse over the last several years despite billions having been spent.
Smyth said the city has primarily relied on local partnerships to fight the problem, which might be something that can be shared and duplicated in other parts of the county.
“What Santa Clarita can provide to the group as a whole is some real effective strategies that we have employed that include partnerships with our other public agencies, service providers and other nonprofits,” said Smyth, who convened the city’s ad hoc committee on homelessness when he was mayor in 2020.
Smyth also said he felt it was important the city have a say when regional issues important to the city are being discussed, whether it be land-use regulations or policies to combat homelessness.
It’s also become increasingly difficult to track accountability for the problem, as the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority declined to release the most recent city data from its annual point-in-time count.
The county-proposed “executive” group is meant to “to tackle homelessness by debuting a new regional approach to deliver solutions, cultivate collaboration and stimulate innovation,” according to a statement from Barger when the board of supervisors approved the motion.
The new approach follows a county study earlier this year indicating that despite Measure H generating $355 million annually for the county to spend on homelessness since voters approved it in 2017, the problems surrounding the housing crisis have continued to worsen.
While there have been challenges, one of the big local concerns of late is that Santa Clarita gets back “pennies on the dollar” for the millions it sends to Downtown Los Angeles to fight homelessness countywide each year, according to officials.
Kody Amour, a Santa Clarita resident who said he’s experienced homelessness in his past during public comment Tuesday, asked for the city to commit more funds to solving the problem. In response, Councilman Bill Miranda said he was planning a Bridge to Home fundraiser because it’s a cause that’s important to him, and then added the disparity in homelessness funding from L.A. County was one of his pet peeves.
“We send all this money to the county … we send tons of money to the county,” Miranda said, “and they give us a pittance back. It’s been going on that way now for six years.”
The most recent data on the topic shared by the city indicated that from 2017 to 2021, the city had received a total of about $800,000 from Measure H funding, despite residents paying about $26.5 million in taxes.
The Executive Committee consists of nine board members, which includes two board members from the Board of Supervisors, appointed by that board’s chair; the mayor of Los Angeles; a councilmember from the city of Los Angeles, appointed by the mayor; four sub-regional representatives, representing the North County/San Fernando Valley sector, Southwest Corridor sector, San Gabriel Valley sector, and Southeast sector and each of whom must be a mayor or council member of a city within the sector they are representing; and a representative appointed by the governor.
“Forming a regional approach to solving homelessness has been a long time in the making,” Barger wrote in a statement during the summer when the body was announced. “We have a lot of different organizations dedicated to helping our homeless but they’re working in silos. One thing has become increasingly clear to me: in order for homelessness solutions to work, we must work together. That’s what is unique about these two new groups. I believe we can accomplish an effective regional approach to solving what is happening on our streets.”