Santa Monica Annual Report on Homelessness Shows Impact of Outreach Strategies, Shares New Investments, and Paves Road Ahead

2019 Homeless Count numbers have stayed flat, shedding light on impactful investments

March 27, 2019

Santa Monica Annual Report on Homelessness Shows Impact of Outreach Strategies, Shares New Investments, and Paves Road Ahead

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — In 2017, Santa Monica doubled down on its decades-long commitment to homelessness with an additional $1.4 million one-time general fund allocation as homelessness grew to become one of the region’s most pressing humanitarian issues. At last night’s City Council meeting, an annual report on homelessness detailed – and Homeless Count numbers affirmed – that Santa Monica’s multipronged investment in homelessness has resulted in immediate relief and a roadmap towards sustained change.  

“In the last year, immense groundwork was laid to re-examine the City’s approach, realign resources, expertise and effort to impact homelessness in our community,” said Alisa Orduña, the City’s Senior Advisor on Homelessness. “Our work shows that individualized and place-based approaches work and that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. In 2018, we added a new team of outreach workers who made a material difference. Connecting people to housing and services takes time, coordination, and focused resources, one person at a time.” 

The Homeless Count offers a point in time view of the scale and dynamics of Santa Monica’s homeless population. The 2019 Homeless Count numbers held steady overall with 985 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 highlights:

  • The total number of people experiencing homelessness increased from 957 to 985. 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—likely due to SB1152, but more insight will be gleaned when the County numbers are released later this spring.
  • Beach count numbers remained stable. 

“Homelessness continues to weigh heavy on the minds and in the daily lives of Santa Monicans,” said Mayor Gleam Davis. “We must remain an active and engaged partner in the work across the region to leverage the historic investments of L.A. County and state resources. Through data and the successes to date, Santa Monica will continue to invest in what’s working, both within our borders and through collaboration with neighboring communities.”

The count numbers are an indicator of how Santa Monica’s strategies are working and where there is a need to pivot to meet Council’s reaffirmed commitment to reducing homelessness—one of their 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. These are:

Prevent housed Santa Monicans from becoming homeless and increase affordable housing opportunities.

  1. Address the behavioral health needs of vulnerable residents.
  2. Maintain equitable access to safe, fun, and healthy spaces.
  3. Strengthen regional capacity to address homelessness.

In 2018, new strategies rolled out monthly across the four pillars, including:

  • Increased clinical capacity of local outreach teams by launching the new C3 Homeless Outreach Multidisciplinary Team and expanding the case management slots for the Homeless Multidisciplinary Street Team (HMST).
  • Santa Monica Public Library deployed outreach staff and strategies to mitigate anti-social behaviors, including a “no-wrong-door” approach to service connection. 
  • Helped shape emerging policies such as best-practice street-engagement strategies for cities, 2019-20 priorities for Measure H funding allocation, and the passage of interim housing facilities standard. 
  • Launched an online homelessness training curriculum providing practical tips to help Santa Monicans more effectively engage people experiencing homelessness.
  • The We Are Santa Monica campaign shared practical tools and tips on how residents can get involved in the City’s homelessness efforts. 

Building on the learnings of these successful strategies, the following next steps are planned for 2019. These were supported through Council’s unanimous vote of approval at last night’s meeting:

  • 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 C3 team to expand the current contract and explore additional funding to create a new C3 team possibly focused on the beach. 
  • The Santa Monica Police Department Homeless Liaison Program team is scheduled to grow to ten officers in the first quarter of 2019, and a proposal has been made to add two additional officers by the end of the calendar year.
  • Expand the capacity of the Preserving Our Diversity (POD) program to include additional participants.
  • Leverage SMFD’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 Walk to increase engagement and homeless service connection.

"I am proud to partner with the City of Santa Monica and other westside communities and to work together to make progress on the homeless crisis,” said LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “LA County has one of the highest housing costs in the nation with close to 500,000 households at-risk of homelessness with just one rent increase, job loss, or severe medical event. As the State begins to work with cities and counties across the region to increase the supply of affordable housing and strengthen renter protections, I am grateful that Santa Monica continues to invest, in the meantime, in street intervention strategies such as outreach teams and access to behavioral health services in order to sustain the wellbeing of all."

For ways to get involved in homelessness in Santa Monica, visit weare.santamonica.gov. To be a part of efforts across the County, visit everyoneinla.org/.

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