The bad news: The Bridge to Home emergency winter shelter’s family voucher program, which provides temporary housing for homeless families in Santa Clarita, ran out of money Tuesday.
The $7,500 provided by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) was the program’s budget for the entire season, Dec. 1-March 15, but lasted only a month.
The good news: In a little more than two weeks, the shelter’s Board of Directors’ outreach to Santa Clarita Valley residents asking for donations has successfully generated the approximately $20,000 needed to cover voucher program expenses for the rest of the season.
“Santa Clarita is just a beautiful community,” said Tim Davis, executive director of the nonprofit Santa Clarita Community Development Corp., which operates the Bridge to Home shelter on Drayton Street in Newhall.
Up to 60 single men and women can stay at the shelter, while as many as five families are provided vouchers to stay temporarily at a local motel because children younger than 18 cannot be lodged at the shelter.
“What we’re looking at is probably $28,000-$30,000 to run the voucher program for families this winter, since we’re running an average of about four families a night,” Davis said. “That means the $7,500 the county was able to provide for us wasn’t going to go very far. It actually ran out today. So in mid-December we went to the community and said we needed to figure out how to raise $20,000, and in just a little over two weeks, we hit the target of $20,000. Nice town, right?”
The shelter opened Dec. 1 as cold weather and high winds hit Southern California, and a record number of homeless people in need sought housing and food. On Dec. 15, for the first time in the shelter’s 15-year history, organizers had to turn people away. After that night, the SCCDC, which also operates an emergency winter shelter in Sylmar, figured out a plan to shuttle overflow clients from Santa Clarita to Sylmar when necessary.
“At Sylmar, we’re running at about 75-85 percent capacity, but at Santa Clarita we’re pushing 100 percent just about every night,” Davis said. “We’ve had more than 50 clients just about every night since we’ve been open this year. In mid-December, we put together a program to take (overflow) clients to the Sylmar shelter, and then bring them back in the morning. We’ve done that three times, and each time it was for only one client. We were able to keep it very close. So we were able to take care of all the clients and didn’t have to turn anyone away again.”
Even with the warmer weather during the holidays, Bridge to Home was operating at or near capacity in Santa Clarita.
“Both shelters ran very nicely over the holidays, and for both Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we stayed open 24 hours a day each day,” Davis said. “We had a number of clients stay with us. We had very nice weather and many clients took the opportunity to go out and enjoy it, but quite a few did stay with us on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Local volunteer organizations came into both Santa Clarita and Sylmar to serve lunch, and volunteers just had very pleasant afternoons and evenings with the clients at the shelters for both holidays.
“So both shelters are running fine, the community support as always is just amazing and inspiring — all the meals, all the lunches, all the volunteers — it’s working very nicely,” Davis said.
With the immediate voucher crisis resolved, shelter organizers again are focusing on Bridge to Home’s long-term goal: to expand services from winter-only to year-round. The organization’s recently launched “Friends of the Shelter” program invites local residents and business owners to contribute $10 or more a month to help cover the costs of keeping the shelter open and providing assistance to families all year.
For more information about the SCV winter shelter, Bridge to Home, the family voucher program, the Friends of the Shelter program, and how to make donations, email Tim Davis, executive director, at firstname.lastname@example.org, call the shelter hotline at (661) 259-1298 or visit www.btohome.com, where a list of current needs is also posted.