A pink tricycles sits at a homeless encampment at San Lorenzo Park.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Civic Life

Lookout Update: How does the city of Santa Cruz plan to spend $14 million in state homelessness funding?

The state has given the city $14.6 million in one-year funding to better address the homelessness crisis. On Tuesday, city officials started to lay out how that money will be used.

One week after the county’s first point-in-time count in nearly three years, Santa Cruz city officials are outlining how they plan to spend $14.6 million in state funding. That plan forms part of a three-year Homelessness Response Action Plan, which city officials will discuss at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

City Manager Matt Huffaker, Deputy City Manager Lee Butler and Homelessness Response Manager Larry Imwalle will talk about how the money will be spent.

Huffaker, who assumed his role in December, noted longer-term underfunding of relief programs, and underlined that the fixes are similarly long-term. Many of the efforts included in the proposal have been underfunded in recent years. As Huffaker told members of the media in a preview Monday, addressing homelessness will take time, with this plan aiming to put long-term solutions in place.

“While these are actions in the right direction, we’re certainly not going to solve these challenges overnight,” he said.

What’s new

The plan sets out some broad goals and includes some specifics on the allocation of the $14.6 million.

Broadly, the city of Santa Cruz would aim to:

  • Collaborate with the county and other area cities to identify 20 new locations for sheltering countywide.
  • Meet or exceed regional housing needs requirements, as identified as low- and very low-income categories, in the next three years.
  • “Reengineer for integrated, citywide services for a transparent and sustainable homelessness response budget by June 2023.”

The proposal covers spending for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Within that $14.6 million allocation, the city would commit $7.33 million toward building permanent housing and related basic services and $7.22 million toward operational expenses, including staffing, sheltering and hygiene and program administration. As currently budgeted, the city will put:

  • $3 million toward the expansion of Housing Matters’ 125 Coral St. housing project, which will allow for further units of supportive housing. At this point, it remains unclear how many beds will be added.
  • $1.9 million toward repairs of hygiene bays, structures that provide shower and toilet facilities for the unhoused.
  • $1.08 million toward shelter development and groundbreaking for new and expanded shelter sites.
  • $600,000 toward the design and predevelopment of a “navigation center,” a physical location where unhoused Santa Cruzans can get basic necessities and support services.
  • $935,299 toward additional staffing of at least 10 employees, including two mental health liaisons, one community service officer, and three part-time outreach and shelter specialists.
  • $2.45 million toward the shelter at the National Guard armory in DeLaveaga Park, with new 75 shelter beds including 10 emergency beds, adding to the city’s shelter options.
  • $1.3 million toward sheltering at Housing Matters’s location at 115 Coral St., expanding options for shelter beds and persons served.
  • $1.05 million toward safe parking programs, required for the implementation of the oversized vehicle ordinance.

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What’s next/what we’re following

On Tuesday afternoon, the city council will hear the proposal from city staff and take public comment. Already, some advocates for the unhoused have expressed concerns about the ability of the plans to meet the vast needs.

The plan requires council approval for implementation beginning July 1.