When you’re driving down the street in Awesome Town you are likely to notice the beautiful homes, clean streets, lush landscapes and white picket fences.
However, if you drive over the Santa Clara river and take a peek in the wash you find a community of over two hundred that juxtaposes SCV’s reputation for being a wealthy prosperous city.
The wash is the home of hundreds of forgotten, distraught and neglected homeless citizens in Santa Clarita that many people are unaware of.
“I stayed in this valley because it makes me feel safe,” said Brett Curran a local homeless man. Curran was born and raised in Santa Clarita and despite having family in the valley he says he on his own.
Los Angeles Homeless Services reported 57,794 homeless people in Los Angeles County as of January 2017. Which is a 24 percent increase since last year.
College of the Canyons has implemented programs for homeless students on campus and plans to launch a full program in fall 2017.
Resources for Individual Success in Education, or RISE, plans to “to improve access to higher education for foster and homeless youth; increase retention, graduation and transfer rates and promote student learning and development,” said the coordinator for RISE, Dora Lozano.
“Services will include priority registration, academic counseling, personal counseling as related to academics, career counseling, textbook assistance, transportation support, meal cards and resource referrals,” said Lozano. The program will also include free showers, food, and classes for students in need.
Many clubs on campus have also held fundraisers to give homeless students necessary items they need for hygiene and for school toothbrushes, deodorant, pencils, scantrons, and notebooks.
One of the resources offered to the homeless population of Santa Clarita is Bridge to Home, an organization that helps homeless people find temporary or permanent housing.
Bridge to home runs a Winter Shelter that operates from November to March, or longer if the weather stays cold. Over the winter of 2016 they help over 200 homeless people in Santa Clarita.
Of the people that were helped 59 percent of the people were chronically homeless, 22 percent were disabled,19 percent of the people had history with drug abuse, and 17 percent had mental health issues. They also helped 18 people who were homeless due to domestic violence over the last year, according to Bridge to Home.
In the last 10 months they have helped 130 clients find housing according to Silvia Gutierrez the executive director of Bridge to Home.
There are many different causes of homeless in this valley but, “affordable housing is at the center of homelessness and there needs to be more work done in this community to look at developing different kinds of housing including permanent supportive housing which includes services to people who need continual support to stay housed,” Gutierrez said.
Bridge to Home is also responsible for helping people who are on the verge of becoming homeless.
Since last July they have helped 13 households with prevention from becoming homeless.
In March, one of the most prevalent measures that was passed recently in Los Angeles County was Measure H. It proposed a 0.25% sales tax for the next 10 years that would be used to combat the homeless problem in the Los Angeles area.
“Measure H will add more money to services and support so that providers like us can access more housing resources like financial assistance to help people enter housing. It also will add some support financially to developing more shelter beds and build capacity overall to outreach,” Gutierrez said.
The tax is expected to generate $355 million every year.
“Measure H is a positive attempt to solve the issue of homelessness. I voted for it with optimism and I hope it will carry out its intended goals. It is heartbreaking to see homeless people on the street and I am always in favor of collective efforts to tackle the issues,” said COC political science student, Mohammed Quayam.
Critics of the new measure argued that homelessness was not something that could be solved completely let alone within the next 10 years.
However, Guiterrez said it will take time to see the full effects of Measure H. “I think it will take a year to see outcomes and enhanced support measures from Measure H,” she said.
47 homeless initiative strategies will be implemented in Los Angeles County because of Measure H.
The general homeless population in Santa Clarita had doubled since 2013 while the veteran homeless population and the homeless family with children population has decreased over the past four years, according to recent studies by Bridge to Home.
The Santa Clarita chapter of Habitat for Humanity along with CalVet has recently built 76 homes for Santa Clarita veterans.
The two organizations worked together to offer “permanent, affordable home ownership with manageable loan payments and family enrichment services to California Veterans and their families,” according to CalVet’s website.
CalVet is now planning to build houses in Palmdale.
Though population counts of homeless people is difficult because many people are temporarily homeless so the numbers tend to fluctuate.
Measure H, along with other local programs, looks to offer relief to Los Angeles locals who are struggling to find affordable housing.
These recent changes are a sign of progress for Santa Clarita and its homeless residents.