Whether your daily routine brings you to the intersection of River Street & HWY 1 to see the current homeless encampment, or you've experienced our homeless community members in other contexts the struggle to find supportive shelter solutions and services for those most vulnerable in our community has not been easy, and there is more work to be done.
The County has been working diligently to address the affordable housing crisis in our county. With new patterns of development, and new incentives for building affordable housing but it will take some time for all of these efforts to bear fruit. As we look to address the homelessness crisis collaboration among jurisdictions is happening now. In the near term, the County has been working with the cities of Santa Cruz and Watsonville to expand shelter options and build strategies that will help us reduce homelessness and provide critical services to those in need.
In February, the Board approved funding to open a new temporary shelter at the Salvation Army in Santa Cruz. This facility is has been used as a Winter Shelter in the past. Combined with the Winter Shelter opened in Live Oak. These two spaces will now be open until June 30.
In addition, working with the City of Santa Cruz, the County will be funding a temporary homeless campground on River Street. This site was opened by the City (and financially supported by the County) for six months last year and had none of the problems associated with other encampments locations around our community. These efforts are in support of closing down the Ross/Gateway Plaza unsanctioned encampment. The County and the Board support the closure of the encampment,
confident that we can provide enough shelter space for all those who wanted shelter services. The City of Santa Cruz is also looking to identify additional shelter beds and locations and the County will work together on this effort in hopes of formally closing the Ross/Gateway Plaza encampment as soon as possible.
The County has hired Focus Strategies to help with developing a more effective system of collaboration within County departments and other jurisdictions to address issues of homelessness. The goal will be to support a strategic, data-informed, systems assessment and planning effort. Working with County departments, jurisdictional partners and community-based organizations, the effort will lead to a new detailed implementation plan that will have support of all parts of the county and result in performance measures so we can assess what is really working. As the County looks to help distribute the first allocation from the State of $10 million to address the growing problem of homelessness, these new tools will be helpful. To read more about our efforts click