In 2011, a small group of individuals who work with several different programs and projects related to homelessness started having lunch together every month to discuss their work. Members of the group were concerned that, while good work was being done, some important things needed to change in order to make real headway in reducing homelessness in our county. The group first decided that lot more people needed to be involved in the issue. They also concluded that it was necessary to change the community’s system of addressing homelessness. The group raised a modest amount of money from a generous donor and hired a talented individual to coordinate the effort part-time. Initially, the group worked within the existing government framework of homelessness policymaking in the county. Unfortunately, that approach was moving quite slowly. The group shifted gears and decided to create a new organization to engage more of the community and to advocate for change. The small group expanded and diversified. Then the expanded team decided that a big, open gathering would be the best way to enlarge community involvement and publicly launch our new effort. Committees were formed and extensive plans were developed.
In December, 2012, the Smart Solutions to Homelessness Summitwas held at Cabrillo College. More than 250 county residents participated. Building on the excitement the Summit generated, the Smart Solutions to Homelessness Leadership Council was formed and leads our work today.
In 2014 and 2015, Smart Solutions partnered with the County of Santa Cruz and the United Way to develop our county’s All In Strategic Plan to address homelessness. After dozens of community meetings and the participation of hundreds of local residents, the Plan was completed and unanimously adopted by the County Board of Supervisors and the City Councils of all four cities in the county. Much of our work today centers around the implementation of the All In plan.
In 2016, Smart Solutions initiated a Community Recognition event to lift up and honor some of the best work being done locally to reduce and end homelessness. Smart Solutions continues this event on an annual basis to support our colleagues in this work and to inform the broader community about the smartest and most impactful work being done locally. Many of the awardees are respected members of the community working to end homelessness in Santa Cruz County. In the past years, the following organizations have beed awarded:
2017 Awardees Santa Cruz Public Libraries The 180/2020 Initiative Families In Transition City of Santa Cruz Homelessness Coordinating Committee Brent Adams Mental Health Client Action Network Downtown Association Central Coast Alliance for Health Brian Lands Mary Lou Goeke South County Homeless Steering Committee Lifetime Achievement Award: Linda Ellen Lemaster
2016 Awardees: Smart Solutions To Homelessness – Lived Experience Group All In Landlord Partnership Homeless Persons Health Project John Deitz Bob Montague Association of Faith Based Communities Wings Pat and Rowland Rebele Appleton Foundation Dignity Health Dominican Hospital Homeless Garden Project/Paul Lee Pajaro Valley Shelter Julie Conway- lifetime achievement