Santa Clarita sees 49 percent increase in homeless count since 2018Mai Nguyen Do June 19, 2019 0 COMMENTS
Newly released numbers from the Los Angeles County Homeless Services Authority’s annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count show that 234 people experiencing homeless were counted in the city of Santa Clarita earlier this year, an increase of 49 percent since the 2018 count.
According to disaggregated Homeless Count data, about 21 percent of Santa Clarita’s homeless individuals are currently living in their cars, 29 percent are living in campers and 24 percent are living on the street. Approximately 14 percent live in makeshift shelters, 12 percent live in vans and 1 percent live in tents. Homeless count volunteers also counted 15 homeless individuals in Castaic, 12 of which are currently living in campers. Last year, they counted 3.
Although the 2019 numbers show a sharp increase since 2018, in 2016, homeless count volunteers counted a similar amount of people — 278 individuals — experiencing homeless.
“I think everyone agreed that whatever happened with that last count, it was an inaccurate count, so I think the 2018 count was an aberration,” Bridge to Home Executive Director Mike Foley said. “We’ve seen 500 unduplicated people at Bridge to Home. It’s hard to have a completely accurate count.”
Regardless of whether the homeless count numbers are accurate, most estimates and internal data from local charities assume that Santa Clarita’s homeless population includes several hundred people. Foley encourages community members looking to help people experiencing homelessness to volunteer, donate and contribute in other ways to local organizations that are already servicing those in need.
“The key is to support organizations that are working to help, support Bridge to Home, support Family Promise, support Valley Services, support the Boys and Girls Club,” Foley said. “Support charities and nonprofits that are doing important work and help them expand.”
Despite Measure H funding driving improvements in homeless services and helping to double the number of people moving from homelessness into housing each year, county authorities cite housing affordability as the primary reason homelessness continues to rise throughout Los Angeles County and the state.
“Our ability to reach, serve and house people experiencing homelessness has risen enormously since voters made unprecedented investments in our homeless services system in 2016 and 2017 [through Measure H],” LAHSA Executive Director Peter Lynn said. “At the same time our regional housing affordability crisis continues to drive thousands into homelessness. It’s critical that we work with local community members and every level of government to increase affordable housing, limit rent increases and prevent unjust evictions while we continue to scale up and refine our system.”
In Santa Clarita, housing affordability continues to be a contributing factor to homelessness. Data from the Southern California Association of Governments shows that the average Santa Clarita renter spends about 34.7 of their total household income on rent, and the median home sale price increased by 3 percent to $538,000 in 2018. At the current pace of development, Santa Clarita will not meet all of its low-income housing production targets until at least 2812, according to a recent study conducted by think tanks Next 10 and Beacon Economics.
“The thing that’s important to note is that when it comes to building the infrastructure that people need, we’re just getting started,” Foley said. “Advocating for affordable housing is crucial. People can pay attention to what’s going on in our city and advocate for affordable housing. It’s one thing to put people in shelters and transition them to affordable housing, but it’s another thing if there is [no affordable housing].”
Mai Nguyen Do is a Vietnamese American poet and researcher. She is a lifelong Santa Clarita resident and a College of the Canyons graduate. She is also the author of Ghosts Still Walking (2016) and Battlefield Blooming (2019). Find her on Twitter @DoNguyenMai.