Ever wonder what progress is being made in Santa Cruz to make homelessness a thing of the past? Here at Bay Area Non-Profit News, we were wondering the same thing. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s most recent Annual Point in Time count, released on December 6, 2017, there were 554,000 homeless people across the country during local tallies conducted in January, 2017. That’s an increase of nearly 1% since 2016. An Associated Press article on that same day states, “Of that total, 193,000 people had no access to nightly shelter and instead were staying in vehicles, tents, the streets and other places considered uninhabitable. The unsheltered figure is up by more than 9 percent compared to two years ago.”
We want to know what’s being done in Santa Cruz to combat this growth here, so we are declaring Spring Homeless Advocacy Month, from April 16th through May 20th. Each week, beginning Monday, April 16th, we’ll be featuring the activities, accomplishments, and needs of four Santa Cruz non-profits, culminating with coverage of the Pajaro Shelter Services 34th Annual Mothers Day 10K/5K/1K Fun Run. We’ll discuss the causes of homelessness, the side-effects to not just homeless families and individuals, but to the community at large, what successes we are having moving toward resolving these issues, and what impediments still need to be overcome in Santa Cruz.
Tackling homeless issues is a monumental task. Many people, including me, have recognized the very real fact that we are just one or two paychecks away from being homeless ourselves. We’re not mentally ill. We’re not addicts. We’re not lazy or looking for government or organizational hand-outs. But we are frightened, because if it happens, that’s all too often how we’ll be perceived. I’ll be addressing my own personal brushes with homelessness later on in this series.
Today, let me introduce you to four of the Santa Cruz organizations who have taken on this issue. Over the next six weeks, we’ll be getting some in-depth insights from the folks who run these groups, their volunteers, and individuals and families who receive their services.
“Working with community professionals from over a dozen local agencies, Wings acts as advocates to some of the most vulnerable, chronically homeless individuals in our community.” Their mission: “Wings Homeless Advocacy is committed to living out our values of compassion, dignity and respect for all people by uniting our community to be volunteer advocates for those moving out of homelessness and onto a path of healing – working together to end chronic homelessness in Santa Cruz County. If you would like to learn more about developing this idea in your community please let us know.”
DTS is not just an advocacy/support organization. “We believe that treating people with dignity and empowering them to be a part of the solution to their struggles is a major factor in their ultimate success. Our approach is unique in that we not only challenge Team Members to take an active role in their own recovery but we also empower them to create long-term solutions for their peers.” So Downtown Street Team Members are unhoused and living on a low income. Contact the Santa Cruz DST to learn more.
“Homeless Services Center partners with individuals and families to create pathways out of their homelessness into permanent housing. We hold firmly to a vision that homelessness in Santa Cruz County should be rare, brief, and non-recurring.” They’ve come a long way since the days of the Santa Cruz Citizen’s Committee for the Homeless. Back then, their primary purpose was “to provide basic food and shelter for those with no resources to provide their own. Homeless individuals would camp on what was referred to as the “Back 40″ on the lot of our current location on Coral Street in the Harvey West Neighborhood of Santa Cruz.” Contact HSC to learn more.
Located in Watsonville, Pajaro Valley Shelter Services is dedicated to helping homeless families find permanent housing. For more than 35 years, PVSS has been aspiring to be “a national model program that helps women, children, and families end the causes and cycles of homelessness – one family at a time. By lifting their dignity, identifying their barriers, and helping them set their goals, homeless families will develop the skills and attitudes necessary to move on to stable housing and improved personal and economic self-sufficiency. Contact PVSS to learn more.