Addressing Homelessness In Santa Monica
July 9, 2019
by Alisa Orduna
This article originally appeared in the July edition of Seascape.
The Homeless Count offers an insight into the scale and dynamics of Santa Monica’s homeless population. The 2019 Homeless Count numbers held steady overall with 987 people counted. The numbers decreased or remained stable in areas where there were targeted interventions. Through doubling down on outreach efforts, staff and partners made over 34,520 contacts with people experiencing homelessness, connecting them to housing and supportive services when resources were available.
Here are the results:
• The total number of people experiencing homelessness increased from 957 to 987. This is a 3% difference.
• There was a 19% decrease in the unsheltered population in Downtown Santa Monica.
• The unsheltered population increased by 1% (646 to 654) mainly due to an increase in vehicle homelessness.
• The sheltered population increased by 6% (311 to 331) due to the number of people in hospitals rising from 8 to 27.
• Beach count numbers remained stable.
• County numbers – Homelessness increased by 12% to 58,936 people across Los Angeles County, and 19% on the Westside. This is an important topic for our community.
4 Pillars for Addressing Homelessness
The count numbers are an indicator of how Santa Monica’s strategies are working and where to continue targeted investment to meet Council’s reaffirmed commitment to reducing homelessness—one of six priorities for the FY 2019-20 biennial budget. Four strategy categories or “pillars” underpin the City’s efforts to serve the needs of the most vulnerable living among us in Santa Monica, while enhancing health and safety for all in our community.
So, What’s Next?
This work is hard and our focus on this important community topic continues. Building on the learnings of these successful strategies, the following next steps are planned for 2019, based on the Council’s unanimous vote of approval:
• Work with neighboring communities through the Westside Cities Council of Governments’ homelessness strategic planning process to address regional needs.
• Create 140 permanent supportive housing units for homeless Santa Monicans and encourage other communities to do the same.
• Explore the feasibility of a behavioral health center in Santa Monica.
• Proceed with a feasibility analysis of possible sites for the replacement of the SAMOSHEL shelter and associated community engagement process.
• Advance the development of an innovation fund as a way to leverage the generosity of private entities interested in contributing to homelessness solutions.
• Continue funding to the City, County, Community (C3) teams to expand the current contract and explore additional funding to create a new C3 team possibly focused on the beach.
• Increase the number of officers in the Santa Monica Police Department Homeless Liaison Program to ten by September 2019, and propose to hire two additional officers by December 2019.
• Expand the capacity of the Preserving Our Diversity (POD) program to include additional participants.
• Leverage the Santa Monica Fire Department’s unique role in the community to connect housed vulnerable populations with the right resources to prevent homelessness and expand data collection of these incidents.
• Support siting of new homeless programs in neighboring communities outside of Santa Monica and to ensure that local nonprofits have adequate new resources to build capacity to meet growing demand created by expansion of homelessness services.
• Increase Beach Outreach Coordination by strengthening relationships between West Coast Care and businesses along Ocean Front Walk to increase engagement and homeless service connection.
For ways to get involved in homelessness in Santa Monica, visit weare.santamonica.gov.