Just as Bridge to Home officially took ownership of its shelter properties on Drayton Street in Saugus last week, the nonprofit Santa Clarita Valley homeless services provider was informed it would not receive the government funds it had applied for to begin year-around operations.
Bridge to Home, Los Angeles County and city of Santa Clarita officials have vowed to find ways to bridge a funding gap for scaled-back shelter operations between April 1-June 30, but exactly where the cash will come from has not yet been determined.
For the past 20 winters, Bridge to Home and its predecessor, the Santa Clarita Community Development Corporation, have operated the Santa Clarita Valley’s only emergency homeless shelter from early December through late March.
Providing case management, housing navigation and medical clinics, BTH opened the shelter at its Drayton Street location in 2013, and now has an office and a service center in Newhall as well.
Bridge to Home is funded through contracts with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and subcontracts with Los Angeles Family Housing, as well as private and public grants plus the local community’s extensive in-kind donations of goods, services and volunteer participation.
This season, with its emergency winter shelter already funded through March 31, Bridge to Home board members and volunteers had planned to continue providing homeless services from April 1 through the summer and into the 2019-2020 emergency winter season.
A homeless man at a camp on the Santa Clara River in 2016. Photo: Gary Choppe.
To cover the additional cost, BTH board members had submitted a proposal in September seeking just under $1 million in response to the LAHSA’s 2018 Interim Housing Request for Proposals.
LAHSA, the independent, joint powers authority created by Los Angeles County and the city of LA in December 1993, today manages more than $300 million annually in federal, state, county and city funds for homeless services, according to the authority’s website.
Part of that flows from Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax passed by LA County voters in 2017.
“Our goal at Bridge to Home and the goal for the entire city of Santa Clarita and the region is a shelter that’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so we applied for that funding,” said Mike Foley, BTH’s executive director.
“It was a wide-ranging opportunity for any homeless organization in the county to apply for emergency shelter and bridge funding, which is shelter care for people who have specific plans to go from homelessness to housing,” Foley said.
Related: County Sets Schedule for Homeless Initiative 2019-2020 Budget
“We believed we would hear in October or November if we would receive that, but then got word (a decision) would be delayed until January,” Foley said. “So we were waiting to hear how we did when last week we received a letter stating that the process of procuring that grant funding had been canceled.”
“Unfortunately, there are no funds available for the Crisis and Bridge Housing proposals received through this RFP,” wrote Daniel Fisher, LAHSA’s associate director of operations for Procurement & Performance Management, in his letter to Bridge to Home dated Dec. 11.
“All Crisis and Bridge Housing proposals received through this RFP, including yours, are now considered closed,” Fisher wrote, also encouraging BTH to “check LAHSA’s website for upcoming funding opportunities.”
Bridge to Home volunteers serve dinner and prepare sack lunches for the next day.
“We were told there was a funding stream that had been identified for that grant, but that stream was not able to be used for those projects any longer,” Foley said.
“We were also then told we had done very well in the process, that we had turned in a very strong grant application, and that last Friday a new grant process had been initiated,” he said. “But we won’t really know whether or not we have that until the middle of June, to start on July 1.
“Our winter shelter was full last night — we had people sleeping in all 60 beds,” Foley said. “That closes March 31, leaving the gap between April 1 and June 30. No one in Santa Clarita wants us to just close on March 31 and put people back out on the street again who are now out of harm’s way, who are working hard to go from homeless to housing, and for those who are still homeless on closing day. We’ve had to do that for the last 20 years and don’t want to do it again.”
To continue to provide basic services between now and the end of June, Foley and his fellow BTH board members are asking members of the community to help, as county and city of Santa Clarita officials sort out a longer-term solution.
“We’re already in a position where we needed to raise $150,000 between now and the end of winter shelter season for our normal operations,” Foley said. “At this time of year, we’re always asking for more funds, because government funding never covers all we need to do.
“So we need to match the (government) money that we get,” he said. “We believe we need to raise about $350,000 to meet the current need and to keep the shelter open until July.”
Bridge to Home volunteers come from all walks of life in the Santa Clarita Valley.
City, County Step Up
“The City of Santa Clarita continues to be an active leader in our community – supporting, advocating and building resources for those who are experiencing homelessness,” Mayor Marsha McLean said in a statement.
“We are working closely with Fifth District (LA County) Supervisor Kathryn Barger and meeting regularly with Bridge to Home to help with their current needs,” McLean said.
“We’re working with Bridge to Home and the city to ensure the funds they need to stay open are available,” said Barger spokesman Tony Bell.
“We’ve told Mike we are committed to helping, that this RFP process is ongoing and there are other RFPs that can be applied for,” Bell said. “They are applying for them and we are assisting in that effort. There are solutions out there and we’ve got to find them. We’re working on that now as we speak.”
“We are going to turn over every possible stone, to ask the community, our donors, government organizations to contribute the funding needed to keep the shelter open until the end of June, with the hope that we will secure that funding on July 1 and can continue afterward,” Foley said.
Building the Bridge
Meanwhile, with deeds in hand as the new owner of its two parcels on Drayton Street, Bridge to Home intends to move forward with already planned and funded improvements on the properties.
“We have some nice drawings of where we want our permanent and nonpermanent buildings to go,” Foley said. “Those two acres are not buildable because there’s so much hillside. So, we’ve got to get the survey done, get the sewer and water in. Then we’ll start grading and putting up walls so we can start building things.”
The SCV emergency winter shelter is located at 23031 Drayton Street, Saugus 91350, and opens for client check-in at 7 p.m. seven days a week. Clients will find safe, comfortable overnight shelter, meals, showers and case managers ready to help.
How to Help
To contribute financially to Bridge to Home, click here. Checks may be mailed to BTH’s main office at 23752 Newhall Avenue, Newhall 91321.
The organization welcomes donations of meals, water, paper products, toiletries and office supplies. Donations of goods are accepted from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at BTH’s Client Services Center, 23764 Newhall Avenue, Newhall 92321, or Tuesday through Friday between 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the shelter on Drayton.
Bridge to Home also welcomes volunteers as morning and opening hosts and for lunch and dinner preparation for the winter shelter season, and year-round dinner providers Tuesday through Friday.
Additionally, BTH seeks medical and dental service providers, grooming service providers, workshop teachers and help with fundraisers.
For more information, call 661-254-4663 or visit the Bridge to Home website.
Volunteers like these are essential to the SCV Shelter’s effort to aid people and families experiencing homelessness. Back, from left: Abby Blasberg, Sara Brown, Kim Shaw, Ally O’Neill, Baylee Lesh, Lauren Murherjee. Front from left: Luke Rigdon, Maddy Sands, Kenya Jones, Paige Kent.