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County houses dozens during 100-day housing challenge

By Phil Gomez

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    SANTA CRUZ, California (KSBW) — Santa Cruz made some headway in the governor’s 100-day challenge to help the homeless find housing away from encampments.

Santa Cruz County and three other counties took part in the effort.

There is much more that needs to be done, but the 100-day homeless challenge is one effort to get unhoused on the pathway to housing.

“It is possible to get people who are unsheltered to go directing into housing with the right kinds of support,” said Housing for Health director Robert Ratner.

The numbers released by the state Tuesday show 33 people who experienced unsheltered homelessness are now housed, with another 54 on their way to housing, by using a combination of shelters and managed encampments. And now, the county has moved on to the sustaining phase.

“How do we support them to keep their place they secured and get them wrap-around services they need, whether it’s health care or have support education, employment support those sorts of things,” Ratner said.

The newly housed came from encampments in Watsonville and Santa Cruz with perhaps the Benchlands at San Lorenzo Park having the largest number of unhoused.

Recently, the city of Santa Cruz set a July deadline to remove and close encampments at the Benchlands but will provide shelter with 75 spaces at the Armory.

The 100-day challenge will help toward that goal.

“I think the 100-day challenge is an excellent effort that the city’s been partnering with the county on and anything we can do to get folks in more stable housing is going to be helpful in that effort,” said Santa Cruz communications manager Elizabeth Smith.

During the 100-day challenge, there were also lessons learned.

For example, more outreach to unhoused people is needed in South County.

Finding new inventive ways to help people connect to housing that includes shared housing opportunities, room rentals, and supporting people to reconnect with family and friends out of state.

“I would say the biggest challenge has been finding the landlords willing to participate and finding affordable rental that has been a real challenge county-wide,” Ratner said.

So, the first step is finding housing and then getting a job, health care and counseling will hopefully fall into place.

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