Resolving homelessness requires commitment from all members of the community. What better way to showcase that commitment and determination than through a milestone event?
On April 1, 2023, Housing Matters aims to demonstrate its commitment, alongside a compassionate community coalition, with the inaugural March to End Homelessness. The event — beginning with a rally, a march through the city’s downtown streets, and concluding in a festival at the Santa Cruz County offices — will be an opportunity for local nonprofit providers, businesses and the community to come together and show their commitment to resolving homelessness locally.
“We have been looking for ways to show our determination and partnership with other service providers countywide for years. This March shows how much of our work is collaborative…” — Mer Stafford, Chief Impact Officer for Housing Matters
Mer Stafford, Chief Impact Officer for Housing Matters sets the intention of this collaborative event, saying “We have been looking for ways to show our determination and partnership with other service providers countywide for years. This March shows how much of our work is collaborative, and brings the community together alongside us in our efforts as service provider partners to recommit to resolving homelessness.”
Working together toward ending homelessness
The event is the first of its kind in Santa Cruz County, and will be an opportunity for the community to learn more about how service providers are directly addressing homelessness right now. Addressing homelessness head-on requires countywide perspectives and touchpoints and service providers share their long histories of addressing the crisis.
The march coalition brings together over 20 nonprofit and agency partners, including the Homeless Garden Project, Encompass Community Services, Wings Homeless Advocacy, Santa Cruz Community Health Centers, and so many more. Conversations surrounding the March began early in 2022; with the support and guidance of so many service provider partners, the event will be even more impactful in its efforts to address homelessness head-on.
“We hope . . . [to] help bring attention to the challenges of people living in Santa Cruz without safe, permanent shelter. This is especially significant today, as the heavy rain brings serious health and safety concerns to us all, but none more than those without shelter.” — Santa Cruz Public Libraries librarian Jesse Silva
Santa Cruz Public Libraries librarian Jesse Silva has collaborated with Housing Matters over the last few months as part of the Neighbors for Neighbors program, which brings together community members twice per month at Santa Cruz Public Library branches to foster compassionate action and solutions to homelessness.
The library system — with 10 branches across the county — frequently serves members of the unhoused community through this program and others, and Silva says the library’s forward-looking strategic plan is to empower people to transform their lives and strengthen the community, which aligns with the intention of the March to End Homelessness.
“We hope that by gathering to prioritize social responsibility, we will help bring attention to the challenges of people living in Santa Cruz without safe, permanent shelter,” says Silva. “This is especially significant today, as the heavy rain brings serious health and safety concerns to us all, but none more than those without shelter.”
Since 2011, Wings Homeless Advocacy has worked closely with 30-plus Santa Cruz County case managers from over 11 county and city organizations to dismantle barriers toward housing and employment for vulnerable members of the community.
Caroline Mann, Wings’ Executive Director, said that it takes that partnership to find solutions, and the March reflects those countywide efforts.
“Solving the overwhelming problem that is homelessness is going to take the whole community working together and it happens one person and one family at a time. Wings volunteers are proud to join other compassionate service providers, marching to show our commitment to a world where everyone knows the safety, dignity and belonging that is ‘home,’” says Mann.
Further, she shared, “We march because we believe. We believe that we, as a community, can do better. Everyone deserves a home, period. And we know that when we all come together to make change, magic can happen.”
“This may be our inaugural event, but it won’t be the last time you see this coalition’s collaborative work for our unhoused neighbors.” — Mer Stafford, Chief Impact Officer for Housing Matters
Pajaro Valley Shelter Services, which works to provide families pathways toward stable short- and longer-term housing and supportive services, also joins the coalition as a partner. Executive Director Mike Johnson said taking part in the coalition is the chance to “make something happen.”
He put his community call to action plainly: “Come march with us and show the community you give a damn!”
Saturday, April 1, 2023, will be a day to remember in Santa Cruz County. Here’s how to participate and what to expect:
- 10 a.m. — Gather at the corner of Cathcart and Cedar streets in Downtown Santa Cruz for a rally to kick-off the event. Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley will present a proclamation acknowledging April 1, 2023 as a day to recognize the crisis of homelessness. Hear speeches from leaders in the homeless services community.
- 10:30 a.m. – The march begins! Walk up Pacific Avenue and across the San Lorenzo River to the Santa Cruz County Building (approximately 1 mile) with neighbors and advocates.
- Until 2 p.m. — Enjoy a festive event featuring service provider resources, food trucks, live music, vendors and more.
Registration for the event is free, with optional suggested donations available online to support the event itself. For individuals or groups who want to take their participation a step further, volunteer opportunities are available both before and during the event. To learn more about volunteering, visit housingmatterssc.org/march2023/volunteer.
“We’re proving what can be done when we come together through this event, and in the continued community collaboration thereafter,” Stafford said. “This may be our inaugural event, but it won’t be the last time you see this coalition’s collaborative work for our unhoused neighbors.”