Taking Action to Address Homelessness in Santa Cruz County
Santa Cruz County is facing a serious housing crisis, leaving many with no place to call home. As of 2017, there were over 2,000 homeless individuals in Santa Cruz County. At the June 2018 HIPC meeting, 32 healthcare leaders collaboratively met to discuss current efforts to address homelessness in our community.
South County Homeless Steering Committee
While investment and efforts are underway county-wide to address homelessness, there is an unequal distribution of resources between North and South County. To address this inequity, the South County Homeless Steering Committee was formed. The Committee is comprised of housing services and healthcare providers, local government, and community leaders. Among the Committee’s endeavors is a comprehensive day services center at the South County Salvation Army location. At the Day Center, homeless individuals will be provided resources such as access to computers, assistance towards receiving benefits, showers, laundering services, case management for housing, etc. The Steering Committee is also focused on improving coordination between service providers and engaging the voices of South County residents experiencing homelessness.
SmartPath to Housing and Health
In connecting needs and access, Smart Path to Housing and Health is the county’s new coordinated entry system, designed to streamline access to housing and services to all people experiencing homelessness. With Smart Path, homeless individuals and families will receive uniform assessments at a range of accessible locations. Once assessments are complete, individuals will enter a countywide referral system, which prioritizes scarce housing resources based on medical and social vulnerability. Assessments will be done via the nationally recognized Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT). The VI-SPDAT will determine both medical and social risk factors and is considered one of the most effective standardized assessment tools available.
Smart Path is sponsoring two upcoming Smart Path Assessment Trainings scheduled this summer. Trainings include all the components of the Assessment Training excluding the overviews of Trauma-Informed Care, Housing First, Cultural Competency, and Crisis Intervention. Dates and time available here https://smartpathscc.org/agencies/.
Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program
Data from the 2017 point-in-time homeless count found that nearly 25% of homeless individuals in Santa Cruz County are youth and young adults. Due to these alarming rates and a well developed, coordinated community plan lead by Encompass Community Services, The Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $2.2 million dollars toward preventing and ending youth homelessness in Santa Cruz County; one of ten communities chosen nationwide to participate in the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP). With intentional engagement of young people experiencing homelessness in the process, the Santa Cruz demonstration project seeks to improve local systems and address factors contributing to youth homelessness.
Affordable Housing Bond
How many of you know someone who is paying more than 40 percent of their income on rent or a mortgage payment?
How many of you have heard someone express concern in some way about the challenge of homelessness in our community?
These questions, posed by Don Lane from Affordable Housing Santa Cruz County, deeply resonated with many of the HIPC members. In describing the housing crisis in Santa Cruz County, Mr. Lane noted that there has been a decrease in funding both federally and locally toward housing development. As part of what must be a multi-prong approach, one solution proposed by Affordable Housing Santa Cruz is a bond measure that will provide affordable housing for local workers and vulnerable populations. The bond measure of $150 million – slated for the November 2018 ballot – will provide investment in affordable housing through three distinct funds:
·Affordable Rental Housing Development Fund ($90 million)
·Home Ownership Fund ($30 million)
·Homeless Fund ($30 million)
Call to Action! How You Can Get Involved!
· Join the Affordable Housing Santa Cruz County Coalition (https://www.affordablehousingscc.org)
· Write letters to city and county officials in support of the Affordable housing bond