Shelter In the Heart of the Storm – Part 3 of 6

Have you ever thought this “homeless thing” just keeps getting worse, and nobody’s doing anything about it? Worried that not only will there always be homeless people on the city streets, but it’s just going to keep going downhill, and all is lost? We hear that fear a lot, especially on social media. “There are more people out there every day.” “The city/county isn’t doing anything/nobody is doing anything, just letting it get worse and worse.” “They all brought it on themselves through substance abuse.” “They come here from out of town to rip us off!” “They’re lazy and won’t work.”

But the numbers in the January 2017 Point-In-Time Count tell a different story. While the number of homeless in Santa Cruz rose slightly between 2015 and 2017, the overall count dropped by more than 1,000 individuals, from 3,371 in 2005 to 2,249 in 2017. 68% of the current population lived in Santa Cruz County before becoming homeless. Of those, 59% have lived here more than 10 years. While 31% of area homeless are employed, loss of job, more than any other single reason, was the primary event reported that led to homelessness.

We’re running this series to spotlight the organizations that are making a difference in the lives of all the stakeholders in this challenge – those who are homeless for oh, so many reasons, those who have their permanent homes here, and the businesses that serve them all. Organizations like Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center. Their programs aren’t simply handouts to the homeless. They are designed to break the downward cycle of chronic homelessness, assisting each person along his or her own path to stable housing, improved health and well-being, community integration, and independent living.

HSC offers multiple programs. Each one addresses a different issue, and together they’re designed to end homelessness in Santa Cruz, from immediate temporary emergency services to long-term/permanent housing solutions, and employment and income programs leading to self-sufficiency.

Residential Services

HSC Residential Services are focused on providing support to those in immediate need of shelter and/or medical care. Services like these are the first step toward obtaining permanent housing.

Paul Lee Loft

This is a “first stop” for homeless adults 18 and over. It can house up to 50 individuals at any given time. It’s s temporary solution while HSC and their partners assist clients to actively work on finding permanent, stable housing.

Page Smith Community House

The Page Smith program provides up to 18 months of supportive transitional housing to 40 individual men and women. During this time, on average 12 to 14 months, homeless adults are able to receive intensive case management and other support services, at the same time taking advantage of the opportunity to apply for benefits, attain employment, save money, repair or establish a rental history, and more.

Rebele Family Shelter

This shelter provides emergency housing for up to 28 households with children (approximately 90 individuals). Families live here while working toward obtaining permanent housing when they leave. The shelter provides a dining area with serving kitchen, common area for socializing among the residents, and a children’s play area. Case managers with the CalWORK’S Housing Assistance Move-In Program (CHAMP) provide support and coordinate services and resources to client families working toward building stability and self-sufficiency.


Recuperative Care Center

An innovative medical respite program, the Recuperative Care Center can house up to 12 individuals experiencing homelessness at a time, where they can recover/stabilize with a goal of obtaining permanent, stable housing and employment.  HSC partners with six local private and County facilities and agencies to provide integrated social services including housing, mental health care, benefits enrollment, and substance abuse treatment.

Permanent Supportive Housing Program

Just like it sounds, the Permanent Supportive Housing Program gets people off the street into permanent housing. Funding for these programs comes from grants, and focuses on rapid re-housing and seeks to move in clients who are likely to be self-sustaining soon. Others facilitate permanent supportive housing, recognizing that some of our neighbors are disabled and will need financial and supportive services indefinitely.

180/2020 Permanent Supportive Housing Initiative

The 180/2020 program has been successfully turning lives around since 2012. To date, 180/2020 has housed approximately 700 people, helping them move into permanent housing, with the support services they need to stay housed, changing their lives and improving our community. Learn more about 180/2020.

Supportive Services to Veteran Families

HSC is a partner in the Veteran Administration Supportive Services to Veteran Families (SSVF) grant to provide outreach and case management services to homeless veteran households in Santa Cruz County. Through a Housing First and Rapid Re-Housing model, with temporary financial assistance and intensive case management, we work to rehouse veterans and their dependents and support them for three to six months.

Re-Entry Program

This program provides transitional housing to homeless individuals re-entering our community in partnership with Santa Cruz County Probation.

Employment and Income Programs

Homelessness can be a catch-22 for getting hired or keeping a job. Perpetuated by the myth that homeless people don’t want to work, all too often employers won’t hire the homeless. Homeless individuals who do manage to get hired must keep their housing situation a secret from both colleagues and employers; if they’re discovered, they are likely to lose their jobs because employers and co-workers alike perceive homelessness as proof of unreliability.

CalFresh Employment Training Program

The CalFresh Employment Training Program is a partnership with the County of Santa Cruz designed to help CalFresh participants overcome barriers to employment.

The county refers individuals to receive employment case management designed to increase their job readiness and to address the participant’s specific needs through an individualized case plan. Participants are encouraged, inspired, and taught the skills needed to get a job and to keep it. Skills include resume writing, interviewing, how to dress, and how to explain a criminal background, and may also be eligible for temporary resources, such as bus passes and short-term rental assistance.


As you might imagine, these complex solutions require a lot of man-hours, and money for facilities, supplies, and equipment to achieve the successes that HSC continues to have on a regular basis. If you are interested in being a part of the solution with HSC, click here to learn more. Have more time than money? Consider volunteering. Have more money than time? Every dollar makes a difference, and in-kind donations are also welcome.

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