When Chris Najarro saw a homeless individual walking along a Santa Clarita road just a few weeks ago, she didn’t feel sad or hopeless.
She just felt anxious.
Battling homelessness is exactly why Najarro is working in the Santa Clarita Valley and she’s ready to take on an important social problem with the help and resources of 24 diverse congregations in the SCV.
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“I want to start making a difference already,” said Najarro, age 31, the new Network Director of Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley.
As Network Director, Najarro’s primary responsibilities will include program administration, volunteer and resource coordination, and case management. She will work directly with homeless families who enter into the program. The goal is to address the causes of each family’s homelessness and work with them to help them to return to an independent living situation. Typically a family stays in the Family Promise network for about 8 to 10 weeks. When one family transitions out of the program another family is brought in.
Najarro is new to the Santa Clarita Valley but her experience with social work goes back 11 years.
Najarro, a Sociology alumna from California State University of Northridge, most recently managed a team of 30 at Childcare Resource Center in Chatsworth, a government contracted program that provided subsidized childcare through general relief funding.
Her favorite part of the job was always case management - working directly with unemployed individuals and low-income families, helping them become self-sufficient and move away from government assistance.
"When you’re meeting with families in need, you’re on the front lines; actually at the core of the program,” she said. “It’s the heart of social services.”
When Najarro learned about the Network Director opportunity for Family Promise of SCV, she was positive that the position was for her. Najarro remembers being impacted by homeless people in downtown Los Angeles at a very young age. Even at 7 years old, she would ask her mother if her family could take sandwiches and blankets to homeless individuals they passed on the sidewalk.
Najarro is hopeful that in six months from now a number of families will have already graduated from the Family Promise of SCV program. She believes the biggest problem facing Family Promise is the Santa Clarita Valley’s lack of affordable low-income housing.
“Santa Clarita does not yet have the proper housing resources needed to help families that are trying to transition out of homelessness,” she said. “Finding an affordable living space for our first graduating families will be a challenge we’ll have to take on right away.”
Family Promise of SCV is poised to open its doors in early May. Najarro has been tirelessly meeting with local organizations which will provide family referrals and resources to FP of SCV. The responsibilities ahead of Najarro could be daunting, but she is leaning on the support she’s already received from the organization’s large network of support.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a great community response from so many different people and so many different faiths,” she said. “That is what makes me less intimidated to take on such a large-scale problem.”