May 5, 2022 4:24 PM
Today, the City of Santa Monica released the results of the 2022 Homeless Count held in February. Santa Monica’s results show 807 people experiencing homelessness were counted in Santa Monica, a decrease of 11 percent from the 907 individuals counted in January 2020. While this decrease is primarily due to local shelter capacity being significantly reduced to comply with COVID-19 public health guidance, the number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Santa Monica stayed nearly consistent with 2020, increasing 1 percent to 608 in 2022. Our continued focus on permanent solutions combined with responding to immediate public health and quality-of-life issues and the expanded availability of regional interim shelter beds have helped prevent a local increase in homelessness.
Comprehensive Response to Homelessness
The City of Santa Monica deploys a robust, multi-departmental, data driven approach based on proven methods in the field. This comprehensive approach to address homelessness balances immediate needs through street-based engagement with advancing long-term solutions. Our work includes coordinating with regional partners to support people experiencing severe mental health issues, substance abuse disorders, trauma, and prolonged experience living on the street.
“The impacts of homelessness are felt by everyone on our streets every day, and this public health crisis remains a top priority,” said Santa Monica City Manager David White. “Housing is limited and too expensive, resources to address behavioral and mental health and substance abuse issues are in short supply, and we are surrounded by the City of Los Angeles on three sides, where the concentration of people experiencing homelessness is substantial. With these challenges, we must continue to urgently deploy a comprehensive strategy that includes providing connections to services and available housing, prevention, enforcement, increasing the supply of affordable housing, legislative advocacy and regional solutions, and addressing the mental and behavioral health needs of those experiencing homelessness. We hear the concerns being raised and are actively working to respond to this crisis by adding experts to the field and more longer-term solutions like a behavioral health center.”
Bottlenecks in City and County homelessness services do exist due to the tremendous need for expanded permanent affordable housing. The California Housing Partnership estimated that there is a shortfall of nearly 500,000 affordable homes in L.A. County, and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) reported an average of 207 people in LA County exited homelessness every day, while 227 people became homeless. According to a 2019 report by the California Policy Lab, 46 percent of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness reported experiences of trauma or abuse that caused or contributed to their homelessness. Further, surveys found that 84 percent of unsheltered people had physical health conditions, 78 percent had mental health conditions, and 75 percent had substance abuse conditions.
City Initiatives to Address Homelessness
Recent City initiatives balance enforcement of local laws with street-based outreach and advance longer-term solutions, which reflect a comprehensive approach to address this public health crisis:
- Multi-disciplinary outreach teams are a proven strategy to address homelessness. Last year, the three City-funded multi-disciplinary outreach teams made more than 11,000 contacts with people experiencing homelessness, provided direct medical or psychiatric services to 808 participants, placed 57 people into interim housing, and placed 24 individuals into permanent housing.
- New experts were added to the field through the Fire Department’s Community Response Unit and a therapeutic transport van will be deployed this summer through a partnership with the LA County Department of Mental Health, building on the active deployment of numerous multidisciplinary outreach teams including the Santa Monica Police Department’s (SMPD) Homeless Liaison Program (HLP) Team.
- A behavioral health center feasibility study is in progress and $10 million in local funding has been secured through a recent development agreement with Providence St. John’s to help meet behavioral health needs of housed and unhoused residents in Santa Monica by pursuing a potential 24/7 behavioral health center on City-owned land.
- SMPD has adjusted operations and mobilized sworn and professional staff to respond to quality-of-life issues including increased patrols in parks and public spaces, and continued mobile camera deployment in key hotspots, with the specific goal of maintaining public safety in the parks and open spaces and responding to business questions and concerns.
- Public Works staff continue to ensure high levels of sanitization and safety in public spaces citywide, and Downtown Santa Monica (DTSM) Ambassadors maintain restrooms and inviting open spaces.
- Investing in homelessness prevention, over 100 new federal Emergency Housing Vouchers have been secured, 134 new affordable residences have been opened (including two new affordable senior housing developments), and at least 191 additional affordable housing units are currently in various stages of development.
- Continued efforts to find balance between the barriers to enforcement such as the emergency bail schedule and recent legislative limitations on misdemeanor sentencing while aggressively enforcing both the Santa Monica Municipal Code and California Penal Codes addressing quality of life crimes.
- Helped Santa Monica residents apply for over $36.6 million in rental assistance and provided legal assistance to over 590 Santa Monica households to ensure Santa Monicans can stay in their homes.
- Invest $8 million in grants to 19 local agencies and 35 programs through the Human Services Grants Program that provide a range of services to vulnerable populations to prevent and address homelessness.
- Advocate for direct investments from the state and federal governments to implement local strategies to address homelessness including expanded outreach teams, pre-filing diversion programs for those with mental health and addiction issues, and the possible location of a behavioral health center.
Additional Background on Homeless Count Results
The staff report highlights that people living in vehicles, tents, and makeshift shelters increased from 99 to 135 (36%) compared to 2020 count results, and the number of people experiencing homelessness in the Downtown was up from 214 to 246 (14%). The report also indicates a decrease in the number of people experiencing homelessness at local shelters, jails, and institutions resulting from reduced capacity of local interim housing programs due to COVID-19 public health protocols.
City funded interim housing programs reported a much higher exit rate to permanent housing than programs countywide (44 percent in City funded programs compared to 17 percent countywide). The local Access Center, which provides meals, showers, laundry, and mail, was also the only continuously operating homeless access center on the Westside throughout the pandemic.
City staff will present a comprehensive update on homelessness to the City Council and community at a special meeting of the City Council on Wednesday, May 11 at 6 p.m. The update responds to questions and concerns brought forward by City Council and the community, and will help City Council consider new Citywide investments for the FY 2022-23 budget including: expanding the SMPD HLP Team to operate seven days a week, creating an additional multidisciplinary street team, redesigning the SAMOSHEL interim housing program scope to facilitate after-hours intakes for City referrals, expanded legal and support services to Santa Monica renters at risk of eviction, and revising the Below Market Housing waitlist priorities to prioritize households with Emergency Housing Vouchers. These responsive solutions combine with longer-term strategies such as working regionally to increase the supply of affordable housing and pursuing a strategy to address behavioral health to comprise the City’s comprehensive approach to homelessness.
For more information, visit santamonica.gov/topic-explainers/homelessness.
Public Information Coordinator