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.
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From Dec. 1 to March 15 last year, Bridge to Home operates the Santa Clarita Valley Emergency Winter Shelter, which offers beds and services designed to help members of the local homeless population get back on their feet.
That’s part of the reason why local efforts are working toward a year-round location for the shelter — and the services Bridge to Home provides, said Tammy McGivern, public relations director for Bridge to Home.
“The homeless population is up about 16 percent, countywide,” McGivern said. “We definitely need to ramp up our fundraising efforts to make this permanent facility a reality.”
The organization has been working with the county and the city to help find a permanent home for the shelter, which is currently on Drayton Street in Newhall.
“We’re looking for very hard on how to get a program running year-round,” said Tim Davis, executive director for Bridge to Home.
Currently, the shelter has three years remaining on its lease with the city of Santa Clarita, which means it will be operating there for the winter in 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16.
Last year, the shelter opened from Dec. 1 to March 15, but this year, it’s extending those dates, Davis said.
“This year at the Santa Clarita shelter, we’re opening up on Nov. 25 until March 31,” Davis said.
While the funding from Los Angeles County was reduced, county Supervisor Michael Antonovich stepped up and helped with discretionary funds to help the shelter stay open a little longer. Community donations, as always, also played a key role in the extended days, Davis said.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, in conjunction with the Bridge to Home, conducted a homeless count in January, to tabulate how many people in the Santa Clarita Valley are homeless.
Due to a data error, a specific number for the SCV was not released — which local officials were told about in June, Davis said.
“There was an error somewhere in the data-gathering so we couldn’t get the granularity that we wanted,” he said.
Calls placed to officials at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency were not immediately returned Friday.
However, the countywide numbers show increases, and based on the number of persons served by the shelter, the local homeless population probably numbers around 2,000, Davis said.
While there were 224 individual names served last winter, based on 16 years of experience, officials estimate they serve only a portion of the Santa Clarita Valley’s homeless population.
“We think we’re seeing, at best, 10 percent on a given night,” Davis said, acknowledging that, “I can’t scientifically prove that.”
The count is based on figures from local school districts, as well as other local and county resources, he said.
The shelter offers a limited number of beds, and families are given a certificate for a stay at a local motel for the night.
Children are not allowed to stay at the shelter, and once someone checks into the shelter, they are required to stay in for the night, McGivern said.
Bridge to Home offers services year-round currently, which officials are trying to get the word out on, she added.
A dental clinic is trying to expand from once to twice a month is one of the services offered at the shelter while it’s temporarily closed.
There’s also a counseling center available on Chestnut Street in Newhall, Davis said.
“It’s case management for anyone who comes in off the street, with city and county assistance,” he said. “We call it ‘homeless prevention’ — sometimes, it’s a little extra money to keep my rent up to speed, sometimes it’s life skills training.”
The Bridge to Home is also offering help for the homeless who are seeking medical attention, courtesy of a $12,000 grant from Kaiser.
The “medical navigator” service should be available later this month, with the idea being to get homeless individuals seeking medical attention the help that they need.
“When a client comes in, we’re going to try to get them whatever entitlements are available,” Davis said, “but also to help them get an appointment with a doctor.”
More information about the services and fundraising efforts for Bridge to Home are available at btohome.com.
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Source: Santa Clarita News