[KHTS] – Using a different approach, Santa Clarita Valley homeless shelter operators are attempting to solve chronic homelessness once and for all by 2016.
Every two weeks, Bridge to Home officials are partnering with sheriff and city officials, scouring the riverbeds in the Santa Clarita Valley looking for homeless individuals.
Instead of these individuals going to hospitals, getting arrested or living in the wash, Bridge to Home officials want to find them permanent housing, according to Tammy McGivern, public relations director for Bridge to Home.
Bridge to Home officials are passionate about getting the homeless into housing not only because it is humane to do so, but because it is less expensive for the taxpayers to do so, according to Tim Davis, executive director for Bridge to Home.
“We often find and talk to people we have known for several years,” said Davis.
They’re scheduling their fourth biweekly trip into the riverbeds this week, so homeless advocates can offer surveys to better understand how to solve not only the issue of homelessness, but the underlying factors, in an effort to stop it from happening again, he added.
Officials offer homeless residents a chance to take an in-depth survey about what their needs are, and what drove them to homelessness.
Bridge to Home officials are using the information they receive from the surveys to better understand what homeless people need, so they can offer them the right kind of services, according to Davis.
“We will continue to do the surveys for another five to six months,” said Davis. “Santa Clarita is following a nationwide philosophy of ‘housing first.’”
L.A. County has also joined a national effort to have no homeless vets by the end of 2015 and no chronically homeless by the end of 2016, Davis said.
Bridge to Home officials are working to house the most expensive homeless people and systematically working our way down from there, according to McGivern.
Officials estimate the homeless populations in the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys has increased by 64 percent in the last two years, according to numbers from Bridge to Home officials.
The countywide numbers show increases in homelessness, and based on the number of persons served by the shelter, the local homeless population probably numbers around 2,000, Davis said.
There are hurdles to overcome when it comes to surveying and understanding the homeless population.
“Many of them don’t want to be found,” said McGivern.
We want to identify their needs so we can move them into transitional and then permanent housing, according to McGivern.
The survey is a six-page, in-depth questionnaire asking the homeless individual about how they became homeless, if they have any income and if they are capable of working.
The surveys are then sent to United Way, where the answers are plugged into a computer program that rates the homeless individual a number from 1 to 4, 4 being the worst off, according to McGivern.
Bridge to Home officials stress the answer is not to send the homeless community away, many homeless residents of the Santa Clarita Valley have been here for an extended amount of time, and often have family or work here.
Bridge to Home is hosting “Soup for the Soul,” event on Sunday in an effort to raise money for the shelter.
There will also be an open house on Dec. 7, where residents can get acquainted with the shelter, according to Davis.
“Many homeless people have roots here,” said McGivern.
The Santa Clarita Valley Emergency Winter Shelter opens Monday at 6 p.m.
“This is the second year in a row we have been able to open before Thanksgiving,” said McGivern. “So we’re thrilled.”
– Kimberly Beers