By Zach Friend, County Supervisor 2nd District
As our local affordable housing crisis deepens, one related (and challenging) issue also has grown – the number of housing insecure and homeless individuals living in our community. Homelessness often seems like an intractable issue — from the fact that approximately one-quarter of the nation’s homeless are found in our state to the reality that, locally, the number of homeless has grown significantly in the last few years.
Here are some local numbers to consider taken from the most recent Santa Cruz County Homeless Census and Survey.
- Approximately 17 percent of local homeless are under the age of 18
- 48 percent of the population experiencing homelessness were under the age of 25 the first time they were homeless
- Of the chronically homeless population, 87 percent are unsheltered homeless
- 59 percent of those experiencing homelessness had lived in Santa Cruz County for 10 or more years prior to becoming homeless
- 49 percent have been homeless for 1 year or more
What is Being Done?
The County, local cities, faith-based organizations, non-profit organizations, affordable housing advocates and more have come together to address this issue. The All In Toward a Home for Every County Resident is a County and community strategic plan to prevent, reduce and eventually end homelessness was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors and all local city councils. The plan has eight data-driven strategic priorities that, as the plan notes, “reflect the most innovative thinking both locally and nationally on how to best address homelessness and its results.”
The core of the strategic priorities is to use an evidence-based vulnerability index and service prioritization tool that works to match specific needs (for individuals and families) with the most appropriate housing and services available. For example, this tool will prioritize those experiencing the longest-term/chronic homeless for services.
Here is a summary of the eight strategic priorities and their intended results:
- Coordinated entry system to improve access to housing and services
- Increased prevention and diversion resources to reduce the number of households falling into homelessness
Increasing Access to Permanent Housing
- Sufficient permanent affordable housing developed and maintained for all who are homeless or at risk
Integrating Systems and Community Support
- Protocols are in place to prevent institutional discharge of persons directly to the streets
- People experiencing homelessness receive the services needed to remain stably housed
Ending Chronic and Other Adult Homelessness
- End chronic homelessness by 2020 — while reducing homelessness among seniors
Ending Family Homelessness
- Family homelessness is ended by 2020
- Fewer at risk families fall into homelessness
Addressing Needs in South County
- Ensure that the benefits of a comprehensive, culturally competent homeless assistance system full extent to traditionally underserved communities in the Pajaro Valley
Initiating a Response to Youth and Young Adult Homelessness
- Initiate a comprehensive system of services for unaccompanied youth and young adults, ages 14-24, including youth formerly in foster care
Ending Veteran Homelessness
- All veterans have stable housing and uniquely tailored supportive services enabling them to stay housed.
Recently a group of community leaders from the County, local cities, faith organizations, non-profit, education and more came together to review the plan again and to showcase ways in which it can continue to be improved and implemented. There is significant recognition of the need to expand housing options and ensure safety net services are provided for our community. As I’ve written about before in previous columns, on the November ballot two measures are also designed to help with housing insecurity, homeless services and affordable housing — Measure G (County/unincorporated area sales tax measure) and Measure H the affordable housing bond.
As always, I appreciate hearing your thoughts. If you have any questions about the All In Plan or any other issues please feel free to call me at 454-2200.