Santa Cruz Local's Deep Dive on Homelessness Spending

A lot of local, state and federal money is spent on homelessness in Santa Cruz. But where does all the money go, and how effective is this effort?

PUBLISHED JUN 13, 2023 1:09 P.M.
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Kara Meyberg Guzman and Stephen Baxter discussing a graph showing homeless spending.

Kara Meyberg Guzman and Stephen Baxter discussing a graph showing homeless spending.   California Local

Santa Cruz County, the second smallest in California in terms of geographic area and home to 250,000 souls, is one of the most expensive rental markets on the planet. 

The combination of decades of no-growth activism, an expanding student population at UCSC and the shifting of long-term rental units to more lucrative short-term Airbnb units has made it almost impossible for people to find housing here.

For these and other reasons, the county has a homeless population numbering between 2,000 and 3,000 people.

In an extraordinary three-part series, Santa Cruz Local, a tiny newsroom that launched in 2019, examines how local, state and federal tax dollars have been spent in the county to address homelessness. Featuring interactive graphs showing spending across 14 categories, and interviews with government officials and nonprofit agency staff, the series provides a deep dive into where the money comes from, where it's going and how effectively it's being spent.

I attended a presentation hosted by Santa Cruz Local co-founders Kara Meyberg Guzman and Stephen Baxter in which they discussed the data collected and analyzied for the series, and shared their takeaways.  After the presentation, there was a question and answer session, and I was impressed by the domain expertise demonstrated by many of the 40 or so attendees.

The local community cares deeply about homelessness and has been grappling with it for decades. The financial crisis of 2008, the ravages of the opioid and then COVID pandemics, and the ever rising cost and lack of housing have made the problem worse.

This series (linked below) is an excellent piece of reporting and an essential resource for local residents and elected officials to inform the community response to homelessness.

Transparency: As a resident of Santa Cruz County, I contribute financially to Santa Cruz Local. Santa Cruz Local is not affiliated with California Local.

Read the Santa Cruz Local Series

Click on the article titles below to read the articles on the Santa Cruz Local site. This tiny newsroom is punching above its weight—consider supporting their local reporting.

Featured image from How Homeless Services Money Has Been Spent in Santa Cruz County

How Homeless Services Money Has Been Spent in Santa Cruz County

From shelters to rent help, 14 categories traced from 2019 to 2021.

Featured image from Money sources, constraints and problems with homeless services spending in Santa Cruz County

Money sources, constraints and problems with homeless services spending in Santa Cruz County

Part 2 of 3: How homeless services money was spent from 2019 to 2021.

Featured image from Is homeless services spending effective in Santa Cruz County?

Is homeless services spending effective in Santa Cruz County?

Part 3 of 3: Residents and leaders describe a need for housing.

 

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