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Homeless facing winter struggle

Emergency shelter officials fret there won’t be enough room

Posted: November 8, 2008 7:49 p.m.
Updated: November 9, 2008 4:30 a.m.
 
Santa Clarita Valley Emergency Winter Shelter officials are trying to figure out how a broken economy will impact services for the community’s homeless population.

“We’re concerned that this year there will be nights when we’re over capacity,” said Tim Davis, director of the Santa Clarita Community Development Corporation. Last year, the shelter had 43 nights at capacity and could not accept more people, he said.

The board of directors will determine how to handle the possibility of an increased client base at an upcoming meeting.

The Emergency Winter Shelter opens for about 105 days every year, giving the local homeless population access to meals, beds, bathrooms and showers. Clients have access to case managers, who aid them in finding jobs, housing and other resources, Davis said.

The shelter, which can accommodate 41 people, is scheduled to open Dec. 1 at Golden Valley Road in Canyon Country.

The shelter will remain in Canyon Country next year before finding a new home on Drayton Street in Newhall.

While Davis expects an increase of 20 to 40 percent, it is still too early to tell.

“There’s no way to prove it until we get there,” he said.

Additionally, the shelter is expecting to see more families, which could impact the Family Assistance Program.

Clients who show up to the shelter with a child under the age of 16 are put up in a local motel.

“We’re very concerned that the money might not last,” he said. But he is confident donations will increase. “This is a beautiful community.”

The shelter already has enough meals for the season.

“All of our dinner meals for the 105 nights we’re open are already scheduled,” Davis said.

City officials are split between planning this year’s season and working through the existing Homeless Shelter Task Force to determine how Santa Clarita can comply with Senate Bill 2, said Lisa Webber, the city’s planning manager.

The new state law requires cities and counties designate a zone for a permanent homeless shelter. “It does not actually establish a permanent homeless shelter,” Webber said. “It creates the opportunity for the homeless shelter to exist.”

There is currently no permanent homeless shelter in Santa Clarita, “We’re trying to determine the best way to go about changing the zoning ordinance in Santa Clarita in compliance with SB 2,” Davis said.

The task force includes city and county officials, along with community and business representatives to determine the best spot for the zoning.

However, decisions made by the task force do not impact the existing shelter.

“The temporary Emergency Winter Shelter in place for this and the future years is not affected in any way by SB 2,” Webber said.

Webber expects the task force’s recommended action to come before the Planning Commission and the Santa Clarita City Council in early 2009.

The shelter’s hotline is (661) 312-5845. The Web site is www.santaclaritashelter.com.

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