I am writing this column this month with more hope and gratitude that the city and county will make real progress on homelessness in the coming year and longer term.
The city received great news last week that State Sen. John Laird secured $ 14.5 million in state funding for the city and county of Santa Cruz to help the city’s response to housing and services for the homeless to improve and expand.
These funds will represent a necessary investment in some long term goals for the city, including helping with immediate needs around safe sleeping, providing storage programs and additional longer term outcomes like a navigation center. Laird’s leadership in securing this funding for the city and county is monumental, and Senator Laird’s colleague Mark Stone was instrumental in it. I owe a big thank you to these two long-time guides of the central coast.
The past six months have been a whirlwind of homeless policy activity in Santa Cruz City and Santa Cruz County, as well as my own reaching out to mayors and elected officials across California to better organize and express the severity and impact of the California homeless crisis Cities and counties that are at the forefront of trying to house or host the homeless while maintaining services and public spaces for the wider community.
Local governments across the states are burdened with these needs and are still seeking a broader policy framework to combat homelessness from our state and federal partners. Santa Cruz is well on its way to being an example as real synergies are coming together with the county and the county is committed to finding 120 emergency shelters outside of the city limits in the near future.
The county is also looking for more service in areas outside of the cities of Santa Cruz and Watsonville. I continue to have good relationships with our district officers and Watsonville Mayor Jimmy Dutra through a district perspective in helping the district’s homeless people.
Our recent success in this funding should be seen in the context of an effective and open government partnership and dialogue. Vice Mayor Brunner and I have made these qualities a priority for this year. We believe that by working together we can be successful, and we know that success will be incremental because of the severity of the problem. Our story does not have to be told to our state and federal partners once, but over and over again, and we have to speak with a voice of hope, but also with determination to bring the resources we need into our community.
The city’s employees have played a key role in helping us, as the elected, to achieve these results. Our employees have had effective results with Caltrans in combating homeless camps in Caltrans rights of way. They have built relationships with state housing companies that oversee investments in the homeless, and they have worked with nonprofit partners on master planning.
We have requested services from vendors through a tender process for the needs identified through our homelessness policy. The city council also formally approved the district’s three-year plan for the homeless in April. We expect additional measures in the coming months to reflect our growing partnership with the county.
But for now, we will celebrate an unprecedented investment in our community and thank our elected leaders, Senator Laird and Assemblymember Stone. I am fortunate to have the privilege of calling them colleagues and mentors and I look forward to continuing to work with our community on this matter with them.
The Mayor’s Message is a Sunday column written by Santa Cruz Mayor Donna Meyers.