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Assistance programs Santa Cruz County.

Find financial assistance programs in Santa Cruz County as well as charities that give out free stuff, grant money for paying rent or utility bills as well as other resources for low income families. There are a number of churches, charities as well as government agencies that provide help. Get free food, mortgage or electric bill assistance, Meals on Wheels and even free health care in Santa Crus.

Free items are often given at the same time as emergency financial help for bills or housing. There may be free groceries or back to school supplies for kids. Or clothes, furniture, and Christmas gifts may be offered too. A wide range of programs are offered even free money. Find details on all these social services in Santa Cruz County below.

The Community Action Agency Santa Cruz County

The Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County is the local community action agency that offers individuals and families several different assistance programs. People can get mortgage help, rent assistance, job training, and more. Read more information on services and programs offered by this local community action agency.

  • They run a rent assistance program, known as the RAP. This program operates and provides resources and services for people struggling with paying their rent, and applicants need to have kids, be disabled, or seniors. Referrals may be given to people who are currently homeless.
  • The RAP program can provide funds and grants so families can avoid homelessness. There may be referrals given out to possibly stop a foreclosure, motel and hotel vouchers for emergency medical situations, rent assistance to avoid eviction, as well as general information on other services for homeless and shelterless people. All of this will be done in the form of referrals to other federal or California assistance programs. A main offering of the agency is they have is funds for offering emergency rental assistance from RAP.
  • Housing assistance is available from the non-profit Community action board for families with children. Or the disabled, seniors, and some others may qualify as well, even if they do not have kids. What may be available is eviction prevention services and funds for paying for rent, security deposit fees, and other needs.




  • Immigrants in Santa Cruz County are also a focus. They can get help in applying for citizenship, learn about job training, and access basic needs, such as food. This resource is known as Santa Cruz County Immigration Project (SCCIP).
  • The agency also offers job training through ALCANCE or a Day Worker service. This program provides job training, placement and retention assistance, along with comprehensive case management services for low to moderate income laborers and youth. It will help them enter and retain higher wage “nontraditional” employment or who want to get back into the workforce. There are other resources such as legitimate stay at home jobs.

Dial the referral hotline to learn about the Community Action Agency of Santa Cruz County at 211. Call to learn more or to apply for help. For information on additional social services from the non-profit, more on the community action agency of Santa Cruz County.

Grants for rent or energy bills and financial assistance in Santa Cruz County

An organization known as Senior Network Services is a place that retired people and senior citizens can turn to for help. The group provides seniors with information and assistance, home help, counseling, case management, shared housing, job training and employment services, family caregiver support, information and access to MediCare and health insurance advocacy, and money management (including debt assistance)  services. More details include:

  • The first component, called the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP), assists seniors those with Medicare to appeal denied claims, understand, review and evaluate their coverage, understand HMO's, Long Term Care Insurance issues, and increase their knowledge on Supplemental Health Insurance plans.
  • The next resource they offer is the Debt and Money Management program. This will help seniors with paying bills, rent, balancing checkbooks, reconciling bank statements, reduce credit card and medical debt, making deposits, organizing records, and budgeting finances. It is intended to ensure people have the skills they need for long term success. Click here to find other ways to get help with credit card bills.

Call Senior Network Services at 831-462-1433, or find more information on Agency on Aging centers and California senior assistance.

Last, but not least, Santa Cruz Catholic Charities ((831) 722-2675) offers a service known as Family Supportive Services, Immigration & Citizenship. This is for all people, no matter what your religion. This will provide food vouchers, free cash grants for rental and utility bill assistance. They can also offer immigration and citizenship services, as well as information on other low income and government programs.





Other resources include free holiday assistance, homeless prevention, and food assistance from CalFresh. This is a regional church. Read more on Monterey area Catholic Charities.

Emergency rental assistance - There are several non-profits and government programs in Santa Cruz County California that focus on housing needs. Funds may be offered to pay rent (if a family is faced with an eviction) or applicants can meet with a case manager in an effort to find more affordable housing. While not as common, government funding may be offered to pay security deposits, energy bills, or other related housing costs. More information on rent assistance Monterey County.

St. Vincent De Paul Society Of Santa Cruz – A number of churches and volunteers participate with the charity. It provides food and emergency financial assistance to people in need. Money can pay rent or utility bills. The charity provides financial help to all persons in need regardless of race, religion or gender. Call 831-423-0878.

Transition Age Youth Programs SCCC is for former and probation placement youth. They can receive help in building the self-esteem, skills and getting other support. Receive individualized assessments, tutoring, one-on-one counseling and more. Advice is for money management and other money matter. Transitional housing offers assistance with utility bills, rent, free food, and educational expenses. Also funds may be used for paying security deposits, moving costs, and short term rental vouchers/subsidies are passed out. 290 Pioneer Street, Santa Cruz, California, 95060. Dial 831-459-0444.

Jacob's Heart Children's Cancer Support Services is for children with cancer and their immediate family members. Staff provide counseling and access to bereavement support groups. Limited amounts of financial aid may be offered for expenses while the patient has cancer. The non-profit can help with pre-paid gas, rent, phone cards, utility bill, grocery, and emergency food. Address is 2007 Freedom Blvd, Freedom, CA, 95019, call 831-724-9100

Catholic Charities of Watsonville can provide emergency assistance for basic and housing needs such as eviction, lodging, utility shutoff including gas, electric and water, food, and other expenses in a crisis. Call 831-722-2675.

Public assistance and government benefits can help low income households, the disabled, unemployed and others in the county. There is cash aid, health care, Medi-Cal, food stamps and so much more that can assist struggling households. A wide range of financial resources, benefits and other services can assist. Read more on government benefits.

Shelter Project is a leading non-profit in Santa Cruz. They focus on addressing the need for affordable housing and stopping homelessness in the county. A number of services may be available.

  • Short term vouchers may be available to pay for a portion of a motel room.
  • Funds, such as government grants, may pay part of overdue rent, mortgage, or a security deposit for a new low income apartment. Some clients will be issued a loan.
  • The Shelter Project offers advice, mediation, and other ongoing guidance to tenants facing eviction.
  • Many other housing solutions are available, ranging from emergency shelter to transitional housing for single moms or the disabled. More on the Shelter Project housing programs.





Valley Churches United Missions supports San Lorenzo Valley and Scotts Valley residents .The charity provides an emergency food pantry, vouchers and USDA government commodities surplus food. Other aid offered includes emergency rental, mortgage and utility bill assistance.

While more limited, may have gasoline money, bus passes and dental and medical assistance when funds are available from VCUM. School-age children can receive school supplies, backpacks, and shoes. Holiday baskets from the church including Thanksgiving and Christmas are offered too. 9430 Love Creek Road, Ben Lomond, California, 95005, call 831-336-8258, or find more programs from Valley Churches United Missions.

Santa Cruz Aids Project is for patients affected by HIV. Receive prevention, education counseling and more by licensed social workers. Qualified low income and uninsured may get emergency funds for paying for housing and utility needs. Or get referrals and support for applying for eligible government benefits and medical care. Other services include transitional housing, legal aid, and grocery deliveries. Call 831-427-3900 for information.

Santa Cruz rapid rehousing and homeless prevention (HPRP) provides federal grants to the community. Applicants come from all backgrounds, including being working poor, farmworkers, seniors, and others. HPRP may help with the following.

  • Rent, electric, or water bills.
  • The federal government allocates money to shelter programs and outreach centers.
  • Stability services, including job placement, vouchers for ongoing rent or transportation expenses for employment, meals, and more. Continue reading homeless prevention and rehousing Santa Cruz County.

The local Salvation Army branch, which is located in Watsonville (phone 831 426 8365) but has locations around the county and in Santa Cruz (724 3922), is one place that people can turn to for help. If they don't provide the specific service they can try to assist.  The Salvation Army in Santa Criz County has energy bill assistance programs, food pantry, church services, character building youth programs, after school program, men and women's ministry fellowship groups. They also try to give students free back to school supplies as well as kids free Christmas gifts or toys.

This Salvation Army center does not have grants for rental, mortgage or vouchers for hotels. Call the Santa Cruz Salvation Army centers, as there are two of them, for more information. The phone numbers are above.

Free groceries, food, and basic goods from distribution centers

Several food pantries, churches, and non-profit organizations in the region will provide support to families. The locations will do their best to never turn anyone away who is struggling. A number of resources are available, including fresh foods, canned goods, and even items like baby formula. Thousands of unemployed and struggling Santa Cruz families use the centers every year. Many locations even offer free Christmas assistance and meals.

Inner Light Ministries, phone number 831-465-9090, works with national groups like the second Harvest Food Bank.

Valley Churches United Missions works with local religious organizations and churches to feed the less fortunate, including children and seniors. 831-336-8258

Aptos Christian Fellowship may have holiday items and Thanksgiving meals, among other items. Telephone 831-688-3312.

Those are just a few of the centers available. Click here for more free food banks and groceries in Santa Cruz County.







Free or low cost medical care and prescriptions

The state of California, non-profit clinics, and the county of Santa Cruz try to provide health care services to as many people as possible in the region. Several federal government supported clinics operate as well as non-profit hospitals. While some families may qualify for free medical or dental care (if their income is low enough or they lack insurance) others may be charged based on a sliding fee scale.

Salud Para La Gente is a leading center. Their services actually extend to more than one county. Assistance is offered for children, teenagers and adults. Look into the medical bill assistance programs, medications, physicals, X-Rays, and more specialty type services such as lab work. 831-728-0222.

The Watsonville Community Hospital offers a sliding fee scale. Patients in Santa Cruz will be billed based on what they can afford to pay. If they can’t meet your needs then referrals are offered to other hospitals or community clinics. Call 831-724-4741 for an appointment.

A program known as Healthy Kids of Santa Cruz County can help uninsured families with reducing their medical and hospital bills. The program provides health, dental and vision health insurance coverage for uninsured children of low and moderate income families. The goal of the program is to provide people with very low cost, yet high quality health insurance, thereby ensuring everyone has full access to comprehensive medical, vision, dental, vision, and mental health services. They can be reached at (831) 430-5604.

There are several other health care providers in the county as well. Learn more free clinics in Santa Cruz County.


By Jon McNamara


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