Last night, December 18, 2019, the Community Advisory Committee on Homelessness held the second of two scheduled community engagement sessions on solutions related to Safe Sleeping, Campgrounds and Public Health. There were about 40 people in attendance at the Veteran's Memorial Hall who were guided through brainstorming and prioritizing the community's needs.
Photo by Kara Guzman, Santa Cruz Local
Some of the popular priorities for shelter programs included:
24/7 access with hygiene facilities such as showers and toilets
Connection to mental health services and substance abuse treatment, among other services
Resources for conflict resolution within the shelter and with the neighborhood
As the Co-Chair of the Community Advisory Committee on Homelessness, I was encouraged by the community's participation and understanding of the complexities of this issue. We were also joined by Helene Schneider, Regional Director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness, who gave a presentation on a range of emergency shelter options. Things were heated during the Q&A portion of the presentation.
In our work we see many frustrations with the federal, state, county and city government's response to homelessness, especially from people working on homelessness in our community. Alicia Kuhl, with the California Homeless Union, Keith McHenry of Food Not Bombs, and others appropriately reminded us of urgency of this situation. They pleaded for us to do something to shelter people who are currently living outside and who will die without proper care. Santa Cruz City staff assured us that they are working on a new location for the River Street Camp, and have narrowed down their search to 2 -3 undisclosed locations. To date these locations have not been publicized so that appropriate community outreach can happen with regard to siting.
Ms. Schneider encouraged all of us to move past divisiveness and to work together on all levels including federal, state, county, city and service providers. This is the way that other communities have been able to make real progress in this difficult area.