2022 Homeless Count Results
The impacts of homelessness are felt by everyone on our streets every day, and this public health crisis remains a top priority. While homelessness has been increasing across LA County, progress is steadily being made in Santa Monica to address the needs of people experiencing homelessness, as well as the impacts of this regional crisis on our community. 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 unsheltered homelessness. Take a look at how our work to address homelessness is reflected in the numbers of the 2022 Homeless Count held in February:
Results of the 2022 Homeless Count
- 807 people experiencing homelessness were counted in Santa Monica, a decrease of 11% from the 907 individuals counted in January 2020 due to the significant reduction in the number of people in shelters, local hospitals, and jail caused by COVID-19 restrictions
- The reduction in local shelter capacity did not result in a corresponding increase in street homelessness, with the number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Santa Monica staying nearly consistent with 2020, increasing 1% to 608 in 2022
Comprehensive Response to Homelessness
The City of Santa Monica’s comprehensive approach to addressing homelessness balances immediate needs through street-based engagement while advancing long-term housing and treatment 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 while continuing to support the development of local and regional housing options, and preventing Santa Monicans from becoming homeless.
What are some of the causes of homelessness in Santa Monica?
- Housing is limited and too expensive for people making minimum wage (The California Housing Partnership estimated that there is a shortfall of nearly 500,000 affordable homes in LA County). A recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that an increase of $100 in median rent in an area was associated with a 9% increase in the estimated rate of homelessness. Click here to read more.
- Resources to address behavioral and mental health and substance abuse issues are in short supply
- Santa Monica is surrounded by the City of Los Angeles on three sides, where homelessness has increased 12.7% between 2019 and 2020
- 46% of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness reported experiences of trauma or abuse that caused or contributed to their homelessness
- More people are becoming homeless than the system can rehome. 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
- Homelessness is not just a housing or economic issue. Surveys found that 84% of unsheltered people had physical health conditions, 78% had mental health conditions, and 75% had substance abuse conditions
With real 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.
City Initiatives to Address Homelessness
Recent City initiatives balance investments in homelessness prevention with street-based outreach, and advance longer-term solutions to create a comprehensive approach to address this public health crisis. Click here to read more.
- Expanded legal and support services with an additional $200,000 in funding for Santa Monica renters at risk of eviction
- Revising the Below Market Housing waitlist priorities to prioritize households with Emergency Housing Vouchers
- The three City-funded multidisciplinary outreach teams are making contact with people experiencing homelessness, providing direct medical or psychiatric services and helping to place people in interim and permanent housing. New experts were added to the field through the Fire Department’s Community Response Unit.
- A behavioral health center feasibility study is in progress and $11.5 million in local and state funding has been secured to help meet the behavioral health needs of housed and unhoused residents in Santa Monica. Click here to read more.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 residences 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.
- Invested $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 and help Santa Monica households, including youth and families, seniors, and people with disabilities, thrive.
- Advocated for direct investments from the state and federal governments to implement local strategies to address homelessness.
Additional Background on Homeless Count Results
While the overall number of people found unsheltered stayed largely the same, the staff report highlights that people living in vehicles, tents, and makeshift shelters increased from 99 to 135 (36%) compared to the 2020 count results, and the number of people experiencing homelessness in the Downtown area was up from 214 to 246 (14%) after two years of reductions in the area. 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% in City-funded programs compared to 17% 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.
The City funded annual operational expenses like our three city-funded homelessness outreach teams through the FY 22-23 Fiscal Year Budget adoption. As additional resources are identified, the City Council will consider new Citywide investments for the FY 2022-23 budget including:
- Expanding the SMPD HLP (Homeless Liaison Program) 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
For more information, visit santamonica.gov/topic-explainers/homelessness.