Santa Clarita has made efforts to protect those who are housing insecure during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the topic of housing insecurity is a multifaceted issue that lingers with people for different reasons.
A Washington D.C. study defines housing insecurity as “limited or uncertain availability of stable, safe, adequate, and affordable housing and neighborhoods.”
To keep some of those residents safe, the city passed an ordinance on March 24 that prevents landlords from evicting residential and commercial tenants through May 31 with a possible extension.
This protects individuals and families that are unable to pay rent because of the impacts COVID-19 has had on the community financially. Although this ordinance solves a piece of the puzzle for many, some individual’s problems are much more complicated than just paying rent.
“[My mom] has threatened to constantly kick me out for my beliefs and what I believe I am,” an anonymous COC student said.
He is at risk of housing insecurity because he is a transgender man and an atheist, but his mom does not support his lifestyle. This conflict of interest creates an unstable home and an environment of uncertainty.
This fear of getting kicked out hovers over many LGBTQ young adults. In general, LGBTQ young adults are about 120 percent more likely to experience homelessness than their cisgender and heterosexual peers according to a recent study.
The student has already been threatened to get kicked out, but he is still taking necessary steps to make the transition from female to male.
He has been secretly getting injections that are covered through his Medi-Cal coverage. Prior to this, his mom has expressed her disagreements about taking testosterone pills and has threatened to kick him out if she catches him.
As the student’s voice begins to deepen, so is the tension between him and his mom. She has not asked him about the change, so he avoids talking about it. The uncertainty of her reaction still has him wondering what he will do if he were to get kicked out. Luckily the instability of his home has helped him build friendships outside, and has people he can rely on if things go south.
For some college students in SCV, this is an unfortunate reality. It is not uncommon for them to lean on some friends for a certain duration. It is another layer of people who are housing insecure.
“You have a sure number of students at the college who are either couch surfing or sleeping with friends. So they might still have a roof over their head but it’s not their home,” Mayor Cameron Smyth said.
A goal for the city in 2020 was to locate more of these students in need so more accurate numbers can be reported. Smyth wanted to boost outreach this year so students, and other homeless individuals, know about the resources that are available. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily stopped these efforts.
“Once we get through the COVID-19 crisis, we will be able to kind of get back into our regular routine and get back to developing some of those protocols and tasks for 2020,” Smyth said.
Many students, including the anonymous one, use some of these resources, including the Basic Needs Center at COC. They provide food, clothing and even housing assistance to currently enrolled students.
Other resources that help with housing insecurity include Bridge to Home and Family Promise. Santa Clarita relies on nonprofits like these because the city does not have its own department of homelessness and housing insecurity. As a result, the city approved Bridge to Home becoming a year-round shelter, Cameron Smyth said.
The resources for people who are housing insecure are there, and they will continue to be there because of the community’s efforts to help. Volunteers and Bridge to Home staff helped move the shelter to the Newhall Community Center, and the city has also opened a motel for the homeless with some funding from the state. This is an effort to help maintain social distancing, while still providing resources to the individuals that are housing insecure, like the anonymous student.
“It is something I like to hold up to other communities as an example of how Santa Clarita is different and how we are always looking for innovative solutions, Smyth said.
The city has rallied and temporarily put a halt to some housing insecurity.
The student’s situation is definitely different. The way he identifies has created a conflict within his home that many may find it hard to empathize with.
Nonetheless, his experience is an example of how broad the spectrum of housing insecurity can go. Although his surroundings may seem dark, a glimmer of light from his potential future is keeping him going.
“I look forward to moving out. Just getting out of the environment that I’m in,” he said. “Feeling free to be myself, and not feeling constantly threatened to get kicked out. Having some peace.”