How We’re Making Progress Addressing Homelessness in Santa Monica
Homelessness is still a crisis in Los Angeles County and within our City, but we are working to address it daily. The results of our 2022 Homeless Count showed that our efforts helped prevent a dramatic increase in street homelessness, despite an 11% reduction in local shelter capacity due to COVID restrictions. Santa Monica’s goal is to create permanent solutions for housing and prevention of homelessness as well as identify new resources to support behavioral health while responding to immediate public health and quality-of-life issues.
Our Comprehensive Approach to the Homeless Crisis:
The City of Santa Monica has strategically invested in several interventions to deliver help right where people need it. These interventions include three City-funded, full-time multidisciplinary teams that go beyond traditional homeless outreach to provide medical and behavioral care, while also connecting participants to longer-term housing and supportive services. Multidisciplinary teams are staffed by licensed mental health professionals, housing case managers, substance-use specialists, licensed medical providers, psychiatrists, and peers with lived experience.
In 2021, the three City-funded multidisciplinary teams made more than 11,000 contacts with people experiencing homelessness and provided direct medical or psychiatric services to 808 participants. In 2021, those teams also placed 57 people into interim housing and 24 individuals into permanent housing. By comparison, in FY2020-21, Los Angeles County-funded multidisciplinary teams on the Westside (County Service Planning Area 5) engaged 3,373 unduplicated individuals, placed 85 individuals into interim housing and 12 individuals into permanent housing.
Last year, the City added new experts to the field when the Santa Monica Fire Department launched its Community Response Unit (CRU) with the goal of improving the safety, health, and wellbeing of our community’s most vulnerable populations. The CRU is a force multiplier among the City’s network of service providers and adds value by being embedded in our 9-1-1 response and better assisting and connecting our community’s vulnerable populations to the services they need.
Since its launch on September 13, 2021 through April 22, 2022, the CRU responded to 300 calls for service, with 196 of those involving people experiencing homelessness. Handling calls in this manner has freed up front line Paramedic Fire Engine Companies 164 times, keeping those resources available for more urgent calls. The CRU has transported 10 patients to Exodus Psychiatric Urgent Care Center, bypassing local emergency rooms.
A report by the California Policy Lab found that 78% of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness reported mental health conditions and 75% had substance abuse conditions (source: https://www.capolicylab.org/health-conditions-among-unsheltered-adults-in-the-u-s/). Providing more access to behavioral health care for housed and unhoused residents is a top priority for Santa Monica. This effort is part of a multi-faceted approach toward long-term solutions to help people experiencing homelessness within the community. Here’s some of what we’re accomplishing:
$11.5 million in local funding secured for behavioral health services and programs on City-owned land
A therapeutic transport van will be deployed soon through a partnership with the LA County Department of Mental Health
The City is preparing to initiate a community process to develop a comprehensive behavioral health strategy that will include assessing the feasibility of a 24/7 behavioral health center
SAFE PUBLIC SPACES
Our community must remain beautiful, safe, and clean for all residents. Equitable access to open spaces is made possible by mobilizing City staff, Downtown Santa Monica (DTSM) Ambassadors, and monitoring areas to help maintain our parks and public spaces. We’re also adding:
Increased patrols in parks and public spaces
Continued camera monitoring in key hotspots for public safety
Public Works staff to continue ensuring high levels of cleanliness and safety in public spaces citywide
Reducing homelessness isn’t just about providing housing for people who are currently homeless, but is also about making sure that Santa Monica residents receive the support they need to not end up homeless. To that end, we’ve been working on providing rental and legal assistance to residents, as well as moving people from interim housing to permanent housing. Our long-term goals also include making new, affordable housing units available and providing more emergency housing vouchers to those who need them. Here is the progress that is being made with regard to housing in Santa Monica:
Over $36.6 million in state rental assistance went to Santa Monica renters to prevent homelessness since the COVID-19 pandemic began
In 2021, 57 people contacted on Santa Monica streets by City-funded multi-disciplinary teams were moved into interim housing, and 24 were placed into permanent housing
100 new federal Emergency Housing Vouchers were secured
Legal assistance was provided to over 590 Santa Monica households to ensure residents can stay in their homes
134 new affordable residences opened
191 additional affordable housing units are currently in development
As we continue to advance our work, we’re actively finding approaches and funding to provide even more support to lift people experiencing homelessness out of crisis and into permanent housing.
Looking ahead: Upcoming efforts to address homelessness
Innovation is key as we look towards the future in helping the homelessness crisis. In response to the City staff’s recent and comprehensive update on homelessness, the Santa Monica City Council took immediate action. Here’s a look at what’s being planned in the near future:
$200,000 for additional legal and support services to prevent evictions
Updating the City’s affordable housing waitlist to put Emergency Housing Voucher holders at the top of the list to access available local housing
As additional funds are identified, more short- and long-term means of support will be considered. Keep checking the website and follow us on social media for the latest updates.