August 10, 2021 3:00 PM
by Margaret Willis
The City’s four-pillar approach to addressing homelessness includes: prevent homelessness; address behavioral health needs; maintain access to safe, fun, and healthy open spaces; and advocate for regional capacity. Here are recent actions taken by the City of Santa Monica to advance these strategies:
Expand the Supply of Supportive Housing
The Santa Monica Housing Authority received over 100 permanent housing rental subsidies for people experiencing homelessness as part of the American Rescue Plan. These federally funded housing vouchers will help move people out of local shelters and into housing. In addition, Congressman Ted Lieu’s office helped the City secure $2 million in federal funds for the development of new affordable housing on City-owned land, which will include housing for people experiencing homelessness.
Department of Mental Health Therapeutic Transportation Program
In line with principles of public safety reform, the City will partner with the LA County Department of Mental Health (DMH) to pilot an alternate dispatch model this fiscal year for non-violent mental health-related calls for service. This means that a therapeutic van staffed by behavioral health professionals and individuals with lived experience in mental health crises can be deployed to calls that would be better served by connections to supportive resources than by the criminal justice system offering a safer, more specialized response, and freeing up first responders to focus on public safety priorities.
Multidisciplinary Outreach Team
Funding was renewed for three multidisciplinary outreach teams to continue efforts in the areas with the densest concentration of homelessness in Santa Monica. Each street-based team consists of mental health clinicians, substance use disorder specialists, housing case managers, licensed medical practitioners, and a peer with lived homeless experience. The work of these street-based teams contributed to an 8% reduction in homelessness last year by offering street-based support services and treatment for physical and behavioral health issues directly to people living on the streets. These teams collectively contact over 1,400
people every year.
Santa Monica Fire Department Community Response Unit
City Council also approved funding for the Fire Department’s Community Response Unit. This unit will assign a Paramedic and EMT to respond specifically to less urgent calls, such as assisting a person experiencing homelessness, and allow for the most efficient use of community resources such as a fire engine or ambulance transportation. The Paramedic and EMT would rule out acute medical conditions and connect people experiencing homelessness to resources such as mental health support and substance abuse counseling.
Extension of the Reed Park Ambassador Program
The budget also kept dedicated Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. Ambassadors in Reed Park who maintain the park restrooms, answer questions for park patrons, and provide social service referrals. This extra support keeps the restrooms clean and usable for all and provides extra eyes on the space to promote a safe and accessible park experience. These local efforts add to the regional efforts to address homelessness in LA County through expanded outreach, housing, and services, while working to mitigate the impacts of unsheltered homelessness in Santa Monica. For more information about addressing homelessness in Santa Monica, visit weare.santamonica.gov/addressing-homelessness. For an update on efforts happening across LA County, visit Los Angeles
Homeless Services Authority at lahsa.org.