Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Deputy Dan Dantice and his fellow team members, Deputy Betsy Shackelford and city of Santa Clarita Interim Community Preservation Officer, Justin Hillemann, walk up to two homeless people sleeping under a bridge.
“You been talking to the outreach people, did you see if they can help,” Dantice asks of the couple.
The woman who Dantice is talking to, wearing torn socks and ragged clothing, is one of four known homeless pregnant heroin addicts in the city. She and dozens of others represent a homeless community in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Dantice, Shackelford and Hillemann are part of a team which conducts ongoinghomeless outreach in the Santa Clarita Valley. They visited four illegal encampments Thursday morning in Newhall, Canyon Country and Saugus.
While Dantice talks to the couple he shares information about programs which can help them get back on their feet, Hillemann pounds a stake into the ground with a 72-hour notice to vacate the camp taped to it.
The paper reads, “notice is hereby given that by 7/27/15 at 7 a.m., the area described above shall be vacated and any persons who remain camping at the above-location will be in violation of Santa Clarita Municipal Code Section 14.06.080 which does not allow camping in the area described above.”
On Monday, subcontractors hired by the city will go to each location and hand clean each of the sites. This cleanup includes the removal of human waste, trash, tents, bicycles, mattresses and drug paraphernalia, according to officials.
“We’re offering outreach to them,” Dantice said. “I have pamphlets and cards for local outreach centers and ones located in L.A. County.”
The individuals are told that a clean-up of the site will occur within 72 hours and they cannot continue to camp illegally. Bridge to Home and L.A. County Housing representatives are usually also on hand to offer social services to the individuals.
“Some of them are in the process of getting outreach, some of them, they don’t seek the outreach and this is the lifestyle they have chosen, some of them have addiction issues,” Dantice said.“It’s difficult because it’s an individual choice for them. Some of them have gone and seeked the outreach and moved out of the wash and gotten help and some of them, unfortunately, they pack up and move to other parts in the city and sometimes out of the city.”
Dantice and other deputies visit the encampments a few times per week in addition to conducting homeless outreach and illegal encampment clean-up operations about once a month.
The Santa Clarita Valley has several programs and organizations in place to help homeless individuals, such as Bridge to Home, L.A. County Housing and Assistance League.
Many of the individuals left living in the Santa Clara Riverbed suffer from mental illness and substance addiction, Dantice said.
The addiction problems are often fed by panhandling, Dantice said. Some can make hundreds of dollars per day.
“Give (money) to the organizations that are in place to help them,” said Dantice. “By giving them money you aren’t helping them. Yeah they might go get something to eat right then but the primary want for that money is not for food or toothpaste or anything. Most of them are panhandling for their addiction.”
In this year alone, 17 individuals have been cited and two arrested during the monthly sweep. Of the two arrested, one was for a narcotics warrant, the other was for possession of metal knuckles, which is considered an illegal weapon.
Many homeless individuals have criminal records and don’t appear in court which results in warrants for their arrest, Dantice said.
“Throughout the month, we monitor areas city-wide to assess and track illegal encampments,” said Daniel Rivas, community preservation manager, in a news release. “We target the areas with the most trash for clean up each month, rotating different areas of the city. To date, we’ve cleaned up 38 sites in Valencia, 22 sites in Canyon Country, 15 sites in Newhall and seven sites in Saugus.”
A total of 82 sites have been cleaned up, which resulted in the removal of 78,550 pounds of trash within 4.07 square miles, according to a news release. The cost for the clean-up of all the sites to the city was $57,467.
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, city of Santa Clarita and Bridge to Home outreach officials are continuing to work to get homeless individuals back on their feet, Dantice said.
“Alright, good luck,” Dantice says to every homeless individual during the operation.