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Program Launches to House People in Temporary Shelters

New program aims to help people transition to permanent housing

Nonprofit Housing Matters and the County of Santa Cruz hope to house 90 residents through a new program. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Housing Matters, a local organization that aims to resolve homelessness, announced Feb. 24 that it is teaming up with Santa Cruz County to house 90 of the region’s most vulnerable residents.

Housing Now is a new program that hopes to help homeless residents who have been sheltered during the pandemic exit into permanent housing, rather than go back onto the street.

Homelessness has increased in the past year, mainly due to the pandemic freezing certain industries and jobless residents no longer being able to pay rent. But Housing Matters has also seen a lot of people coming into shelters who previously declined homeless services.

Tom Stagg, director of programs at Housing Matters, speculated that this is related to the fact that hotel rooms and other socially-distanced shelters, such as the pallet shelters Housing Matters provides at its campus, give individuals a certain level of privacy and independence. This is a contrast to congregate shelters, which are more like dorm rooms with bunk beds and communal spaces.

“When we got the new pallet shelters … we kept hearing people ask, ‘How can I get in there?’ Many had declined [our services] in the past,” he said.

According to Housing Matters, since the pandemic started, shelter capacity across the county has increased by approximately 300 beds. Stagg said those who have stayed in temporary shelters or hotels are among the most vulnerable in the county.

“Beds were reserved for high-risk individuals,” he said. “Even once the pandemic is starting to fade behind us, it will still be unsafe for the health of those folks if they have to return to the streets. It’s critical that we move them into housing before their shelter or hotel stay is up …. The county is committed to ensuring people don’t return to the streets, and we’re excited to be part of that effort.”

Housing Matters hopes to house 90 people in the next 15 months through Housing Now. It plans to hire five new case managers and one program manager, plus additional staff to help meet this goal.

Case managers will aid up to 20 individuals, guiding them through the housing search process—from how to find rental listings to filling out applications and resumes.

In addition, they will work directly with landlords, acting as a liaison between them and people from the program. They hope this will encourage landlords to look at their clients as prospective renters. Stagg encouraged local residents who own rentals to contact Housing Matters if they have availability and want to be part of the program.

“Sometimes, a client might not look great on paper—but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work out,” he said.

Lastly, Housing Now will offer rental subsidies. When a client moves into housing, Housing Matters will help pay rent and support them with home visits, organizing expenses and more until they can become self-sufficient.

Housing Now is funded by Santa Cruz County, and, as part of the recruitment efforts, it is offering competitive pay for new hires.

“These positions will start at $31 per hour, which is quite competitive for case management positions in our county,” Rebecca Steckler, Housing Matters deputy executive director, said in a press release. “We hope to attract experienced professionals who can hit the ground running.”

Steckler noted that Housing Matters will run an internal recruitment effort, and also look for talent outside the organization. 

“It’s part of our culture to hire from within whenever possible,” she said. “Though of course whenever we do that, we have positions to backfill. We’re excited to meet new talented individuals throughout this search process, either for these new positions or other newly open positions.”

Housing Matters will host a job fair Thursday from noon to 4pm for interested candidates to meet hiring managers. The fair will be held in-person, with strict social distancing protocols in place. Attendees will arrive at pre-designated times, and will follow all Covid-19 safety best practices.

People can visit housingmatterssc.org/careers to view job postings. To apply, candidates should email their resume to [email protected]. Once it has been confirmed that an applicant meets qualifications, they will be sent a link to sign up for a time slot at the fair. For more information, contact Housing Matters’ Human Resources Coordinator Raine Armanino at 831-458-6020.

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