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City Council Prioritizes Strategies to Address Homelessness

February 24, 2021 9:02 AM

City Council Prioritizes Strategies to Address Homelessness

At its annual study session on homelessness last night, the Santa Monica City Council provided input and prioritized strategies to build on Santa Monica’s four pillars to address homelessness with the goal to ensure public spaces are safe, clean, and healthy for all in the community to enjoy by delivering impactful services to people in need. Council continued the work of Santa Monica’s multi-disciplinary street outreach teams and Reed Park Ambassadors, and prioritized the expansion of rental assistance to prevent Santa Monicans from becoming homeless.

“Housing is a human right and it is unconscionable that Los Angeles County has as many people living without housing as the population of one of its smaller cities,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “But we are determined to confront this human tragedy with effective and innovative solutions. The City Council is committed to ensuring safe public spaces and housing for all. We will continue our multi-disciplinary street teams and other proven strategies, while seeking state and federal funding to scale the dramatic change that is needed.”

In previous years, the meeting would have shared the results of the Homeless Count, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2021 count was canceled by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. While the last count in 2020 showed positive results including an 8% decrease in Santa Monica compared to a 13% increase countywide, COVID-19 has exacerbated Los Angeles County’s twin crises of housing and homelessness, and stymied interventions due to things like limited shelter capacity and an overburdened court system. It is in this context that the Council held its discussion. 

In addition to continuing the multi-disciplinary street teams and the Reed Park Ambassador program through June 2023, Council prioritized the following additional strategies for consideration during the forthcoming biennial budget process.

  1. Extended Emergency Rental Assistance to prevent residents from falling into homelessness.
  2. An alternative non-congregate shelter on City property.
  3. A behavioral health triage center.
  4. Low acuity crisis response unit in the Santa Monica Fire Department. 

City Council also affirmed Santa Monica’s four pillar approach to addressing homelessness: Prevent housed Santa Monicans from becoming homeless; address the behavioral health needs of vulnerable residents; advocate for regional capacity to address homelessness; and maintain access to safe, fun, and healthy open spaces. 

Last night’s detailed review of the City’s multi-departmental approach to addressing homelessness included the following metrics that provide local context to this regional crisis:

  • Santa Monica’s shelter capacity includes 186 interim beds for individuals, 67 interim beds for families, and 116 substance use treatment beds.
  • Homeless Services Grants Program funds 8 programs by 6 agencies totaling $2.9 million with $1.9 million non-City matching funds.
  • Interim housing serves 111 people and in Santa Monica with only 15% exiting to the streets compared to 31% in Los Angeles.
  • Ninety-five new affordable housing residences were created in 2020.
  • The C3 outreach team had 1,400 unduplicated engagements in the downtown and beach areas, which is also where the largest decreases in the homeless count occurred; and the Homeless Multidisciplinary Street Team yielded cost savings to the City that offset 17 to 43% of the City’s $600,000 annual investment that outreach team.
  • Legal assistance was provided to 695 individuals experiencing homelessness and Homeless Community Court supported 120 graduates in securing permanent housing.
  • Homelessness prevention programs supported 900 households with funds to stay housed and 800 households received support services.
  • The Akido “Santa Monica Connect” first responder service tool has resulted in a 37% reduction in police and fire contacts for the City’s highest users of emergency services.
  • SMFD responded to 2,946 homeless-related calls (18% of total calls) and provided information about services 756 times during those responses.
  • Department of Mental Health clinicians embedded in the Santa Monica Police Department conducted 189 evaluations, resulting in 119 linkages to psychiatric urgent care or hospitalization.
  • An alternative dispatch emergency response model is in progress with the Department of Mental Health through $400,000 in CARES Act funding.

If you are interested in learning more about the City’s commitment to addressing homelessness and the impacts of COVID-19, read this recent blog post, watch the staff presentation at last night’s meeting, or visit www.weare.santamonica.gov/addressing-homelessness.

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