Rare, brief, and non-recurring. When it comes to homelessness, that’s the vision to which Housing Matters, the largest non-profit in Santa Cruz County focused exclusively on the issue of homelessness, is dedicated.
At the Coral Street campus in Santa Cruz, Housing Matters runs four shelters: Rebele Family Shelter for families; Paul Lee Loft, an emergency shelter for adults; Page Smith Community House, a transitional housing program; and the one-of-a-kind Recuperative Care Center, providing shelter for people who’ve recently been discharged from the hospital and need a warm, clean environment to recover successfully, while receiving support services.
With shelter beds for around 200 people, Housing Matters provides 63,410 bednights (one person spending one night in the shelter) every year, including 99,160 meals and 57,600 showers. In total, they provide services for over 2,500 people annually.
In the last two years, Housing Matters helped house over 550 people, including 314 in the last year alone.
“We have a proven track record of helping individuals, families and veterans get housed and stay housed,” said Phil Kramer, executive director of Housing Matters. “We are efficient with the limited resources we have and we are focused on proven solutions. And we serve thousands of people every year.”
For people experiencing homelessness, the first step in the process is to complete what’s called a Smart Path assessment; Smart Path is Santa Cruz County’s coordinated entry system. The system streamlines access to housing assistance and services through one simple assessment.
From there, those in need of assistance are referred to the most appropriate program(s), which may include services from Housing Matters, depending on each person or household’s specific needs.
In addition, Housing Matters takes a comprehensive approach to delivering services. Case managers work to connect clients with services including mental health support, job training, and substance use treatment. They also provide housing navigation, which helps the client locate housing options that are sustainable for each individual’s circumstances, including location, budget and more.
Housing Matters also offers a shower and restroom facility that is open to the public seven days a week. A mailroom is also available, where over 900 people are registered to receive mail.
Housing Matters supports its clients from initial assessment through the entire housing process—and well beyond. The work that Housing Matters is doing is truly having a long-term, positive impact on the health of Santa Cruz County.
All of the Housing Matters programs operate using the “housing first” model, which focuses first on getting people into permanent housing. Once housed, the focus shifts to connecting them with programs and services that can help them address challenges that may have contributed to their homelessness, such as addiction, job insecurity, or domestic violence.
“Housing is a basic human need, and nobody in our community should live without a home, While there are often traumatic events that lead to homelessness, being unhoused can be traumatic in and of itself. Getting people into housing is often the first step in a long healing process. And everyone in our community deserves a chance to heal.”