Santa Monica Homeless Count Data Shows Impact of Coordinated Efforts with 8% Decrease Pre-COVID-19
June 12, 2020 10:53 AM
SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Today, both the City of Santa Monica and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released the results of the annual Homeless Count, the county-wide effort to quantify and understand the complexities of homelessness, with Santa Monica’s results showing that the City’s coordinated efforts have had a positive impact on homelessness locally. On the night of January 22, over 350 local volunteers and City staff participated in Santa Monica’s annual Homeless Count, and the 2020 data found 907 people experiencing homelessness in Santa Monica, an eight percent decrease from the 985 counted in 2019.
Of those counted in Santa Monica, 601 (66%) were unsheltered, living in places such as tents and vehicles, and 306 (34%) were in shelters or institutions. Notably, the unsheltered street count decreased eight percent, from 331 in 2019 to 311 in 2020. More specifically, the number of individuals counted on the beach and in the Downtown Santa Monica area has decreased over the past two years, with a 14 percent decrease from 2019 to 2020 following a 19 percent decrease the prior year. These areas have benefited from continued investment and coordinated efforts by multi-disciplinary street engagement teams, City departments, and Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM).
“The local numbers contrast with regional increases, and make clear that Santa Monica’s street-based outreach model for persons experiencing homelessness does work," said Mayor Kevin McKeown. "Thanks to the volunteers who did our Santa Monica count in January, we are encouraged to continue our effective one-person-at-a-time, coordinated approach to services that further reduce homelessness. We’ve yet to see the impacts of COVID-19 and economic challenges, but Santa Monica’s eviction moratorium and ongoing commitment to leverage state and federal funding for housing assistance will keep local residents from being forced onto the streets. Santa Monica can be proud of our progress, but there is much hard work yet to be done.”
In contrast, the point-in-time count of people experiencing homelessness in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care (LA County, not including Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach) was 63,706, a 13 percent increase from last year. Of those counted, 17,616 (28%) were sheltered and 46,090 (72%) were unsheltered. This slight increase in the percent of sheltered individuals, usually less than 25 percent, demonstrates regional progress in expanding and making shelter options accessible for individuals experiencing homelessness. And while the homeless services system has doubled the number of people placed back into housing over the past five years, the inflow of new people becoming homeless each year is increasing as well, largely driven by a low affordable housing supply and income inequality caused by institutional racism.
The correlation between race and homelessness is especially stark in Los Angeles County. While all other racial groups were evenly or under-represented, Black people accounted for 33.7 percent of the homeless population, but make up only 7.9 percent of the county’s general population. LAHSA’s 2018 Report and Recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness examined factors contributing to racial inequities and developed recommendations to dismantle racism and address disparities that can lead to poverty, housing insecurity, and other long-term issues. That report, as well as current and historical Homeless Count data for LA County, can be found at www.lahsa.org.
Much has changed since the 2020 Homeless Counts were conducted in January. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 included reducing the capacity of shelters, sheltering-in-place, and avoiding congregating. These measures have cut-off many people experiencing homelessness from essential services. The global pandemic has shifted the City’s efforts on homelessness to a true emergency response. The City and local service providers are collaborating in new ways to provide access to food, hygiene, and other life-sustaining resources to people experiencing homelessness. To ensure that every individual can comply with Safer at Home orders, street engagement teams, funded by Cedars-Sinai and GRoW@Annenberg and in partnership with a local motel owner, have placed high-risk, vulnerable individuals into motel rooms and provide services to help them self-isolate during this public health emergency.
Looking forward, the City is also implementing policies and programs to mitigate impacts of COVID-19 for Santa Monica residents who have lost income and may be facing the possibility of homelessness for the first time. On March 14, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City instated an eviction moratorium that is currently in effect through June 30, protecting tenants who are unable to pay rent due to the financial impacts of COVID-19. Santa Monica’s Section 8 and Below Market Housing waitlists opened on May 1, providing additional affordable housing opportunities. City Council has prioritized housing and homeless prevention by increasing support for the Preserving Our Diversity senior housing subsidy program, restoring funding to the Legal Aid Foundation, and allocating additional funds for emergency rental assistance.
The 2020 Santa Monica Homeless Count demonstrates this community’s collective ability to reduce homelessness through targeted investments and collaboration. However, the full impacts of COVID-19 have yet to be revealed, and reductions to resources committed to addressing homelessness from both the public and private sector, as well as increased need to mitigate an overwhelming inflow of newly homeless households, will make sustained reductions unlikely. In the coming year, the City will continue to prioritize keeping people safe and healthy, as well as preventing people from becoming homelessness.
To learn more about LAHSA’s efforts to address homelessness or to request homeless outreach, visit LAHSA.org. To learn more about how Santa Monica is addressing homelessness and what you can do locally, visit: www.weare.santamonica.gov/addressing-homelessness.
COVID-19 resources, information, and updates for Santa Monica can be found at www.santamonica.gov/coronavirus.