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Our View: Appreciation for shelter support goes both ways

The Signal Editorial Board

Posted: November 27, 2010 9:37 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2010 4:30 a.m.
 

Most of us are learning to do more with less these days — it’s the new normal. That extends to local nonprofit organizations, too.

This year, without any increase in its operating budget, the group that runs the Santa Clarita Valley’s only emergency winter shelter for people in need has increased its number of beds from 40 to 54, a 35-percent jump.

When it opens at its new location Wednesday at 6 p.m., the shelter will also add new services, including an on-site nurse a few nights a week and doctor’s appointments at two local clinics.

The expanded campus and services are testament to the nonprofit Santa Clarita Community Development Corp.’s lean and efficient management, refined by operating the shelter the past 13 winters, and good planning, including anticipating another spike again this year in the number of people seeking help.

But the shelter wouldn’t exist in the first place, much less be in a position to expand to meet a greater need, without the local donors and volunteers — more than 2,000 of them — who are so generous with their money, services and time, says Tim Davis, the group’s executive director.

Davis and the SCCDC will host an open house Tuesday night from 6-9 p.m. to thank the community for its support and to introduce the shelter’s new campus, located at 23031 Drayton St. in Saugus, off Railroad Avenue a couple of blocks southeast of the Saugus Café.

Last winter, as the Great Recession gripped the nation, the old 40-bed shelter on Golden Valley Road was maxed out almost every night and peaked at 58 people one evening.

Instead of turning anyone away, the shelter staff converted part of the dining area into a dorm by taking out tables and moving in cots.

This year, as the effects of the recession linger, Davis and the SCCDC board members anticipated as much or more demand for shelter services and launched the group’s “Beds for All” campaign to help raise funds to provide the additional beds.

It took the organization and about 200 of its volunteers some three months to dismantle the shelter on Golden Valley and build the larger facility on Drayton.

Some of the $15,000 in expenses for the “Beds for All” expansion still need to be covered, including building supplies.

There’s a list on the shelter’s website at www.santaclaritashelter.com where people can use an online shopping cart to donate the cost of doors, windows, nails and screws, fire alarms, electrical cable and more.

Thirty percent of the shelter’s annual operating budget of about $250,000 comes from local residents through donations in kind, including meals, supplies and volunteer hours.

Another 30 percent comes from fundraising and cash donations — like the annual Humor Helps comedy show and Boston Scientific’s $15,000 grant to provide the additional medical services this year — as well as the donations to cover building supplies.

The remaining 40 percent of the shelter’s budget is covered by county, state and federal funds and grant money.

The city of Santa Clarita provides the Drayton Street property on which the shelter will be located for the next three years, starting this year.

The Emergency Winter Shelter, open Dec. 1 through March 15 each season, is often the first, but not necessarily the last, stop for local people in need of food, shelter, a job, and/or medical or mental health assistance.

The shelter immediately provides a warm bed and meals to homeless and hungry individuals, and through its Family Assistance Program, temporary lodging in a local motel for parents with kids.

That’s the first step – helping homeless people get off the street, out of their encampments and off the couch circuit.

With immediate needs addressed, shelter staff and associated caseworkers evaluate each person’s circumstances.

Then, by teaming up with local agencies, primarily Lutheran Social Services, and using federal funds from its operating budget, the shelter can “hand up” individuals and families to other agencies better equipped to help them get back on their feet.

As Davis notes, none of this can happen without the support of caring people in our community.

We invite you to join us at Tuesday night’s open house and see how a little help from a lot of people can go a long way to ease our neighbors’ suffering.

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