Clean & Safe: The Homeless Support Team removes literal tons of trash from Santa Monica’s public spaces every month

December 20, 2023 2:26 PM
by Jose "Jay" Aguilar

Every Tuesday and Thursday, a team of three people and one giant truck work diligently to clean Santa Monica’s public spaces. They divide the city into quadrants and address each quadrant at least once a week. If you have noticed a sparkling clean area where an encampment or large debris field used to be, chances are you have them to thank for it. They’re an integral part of keeping the streets of Santa Monica Clean & Safe.

In late September, the city began deploying the Homeless Support Team (HoST) twice a week to address an increase in encampment-related waste and debris in the city’s parks, beach, public spaces and facilities, and to assist the Police and Fire Departments during encampment removal efforts.

In November alone, the team picked up and disposed of more than 30 tons of trash.

HoST is funded through voter-approved Measure CS, which raised the transient occupancy tax or “hotel tax,” in a concerted effort to boost Clean & Safe efforts. The team operates out of the Promenade Maintenance Division of the Public Works Department and is made up of one crew leader and two maintenance workers. The work is currently done through a contractor, Mariposa, but is set to be moved in-house as a permanent city team in spring 2024.

HoST targets public spaces based on known “hotspots,” complaints filed through the city’s 311 system, and field staff intel on areas of concern. The team is also the main point of contact for all police and fire requests for cleaning, hauling and sanitization assistance. This could involve breaking down an encampment, cleaning the public right of way or public facility, or addressing debris that is a public safety hazard in the eyes of police, the city manager or the City Council.

Since the program’s inception at the end of September, HoST has addressed 339 locations throughout the city, and so far the trash totals have grown exponentially – from 7.5 tons in October to the 30.7 tons in November.

To bring HoST in-house, the city is first working on procuring the necessary vehicles — a lengthy process due to supply chain shortages — and then will hire dedicated staff for the team. HoST team members receive enhanced training to keep themselves and the community safe, including ladder, workplace, respiratory and bloodborne pathogen safety training as well as training in de-escalation, Fentanyl and Naloxone use, homeless cleanup hazards and more.

Once HoST is made a permanent part of the city staff, there are plans to ramp up coverage so that they are deployed five days a week.

HoST is just one of many efforts by the city in Addressing Homelessness and keeping Santa Monica Clean & Safe. This is a citywide, multi-department effort, into which the city is devoting unprecedented resources. We’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks about the many other programs and initiatives the city has implemented to further these key strategic priorities.

Authored By

Jose "Jay" Aguilar
Custodial Services Administrator


Recycling and Trash, Services