SANTA MONICA—On November 28, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously voted to approve a Homeless Strategic Goal Action Plan and a series of new investments in the plan to address homelessness. The recommendations came as part of staff’s Annual Homelessness Report to City Council at a time when homelessness has risen by 23 percent throughout Los Angeles County in 2017.
“Homelessness is the biggest issue in front of us. People are suffering on our streets and throughout the county in unprecedented numbers,” said Mayor Ted Winterer. “We want the community to know that we understand the daily impacts and we are deeply invested in proactive and coordinated engagement to see change in our neighborhoods and public spaces.”
Santa Monica is maximizing the use of existing resources and on October 24, city council authorized $1.4 million in one-time funds to support the roll out of new investments identified through the Action Plan. The city has been able to maintain a stable homeless count from 2010 to 2016 as a result of its national best-practice approach. In 2017, the community documented a 26 percent increase in homelessness at the annual point-in-time count, bringing the local count total to 921 individuals. The growth was in step with a 23 percent region-wide increase, bringing the Los Angeles County homeless tally to 57,794 people.
Santa Monica’s local homeless service system, parallels the regional model, and consists of three parts: (1) outreach, (2) care management and supportive services, and (3) permanent housing. To resolve homelessness among known vulnerable homeless individuals, the City has invested heavily in supportive services, permanent supportive housing and regional affordable housing developments.
In 2015, city council identified that continued success would be a result of broadening participation in regional partnerships to increase capacity of the Los Angeles homeless service system to address homelessness. Council established taking a leadership role in regional efforts to address homelessness as a top five Strategic Goal.
According to a press release from Constance Farrell, Public Information Officer for the city of Santa Monica, the plan includes coordinated, proactive outreach approaches with new, multidisciplinary outreach teams, place-based engagement strategies and additional resources at the Santa Monica Public Library. Some of the concepts included in the Action Plan approved by city council include the following:
New coordinated, proactive outreach teams to connect homeless individuals to services
-Place-based engagement by 10-12 new outreach workers, starting with a C3 homeless outreach team.
-Santa Monica Police Department is enhancing officer training so the entire department is focused on proactive engagement, re-deploying existing officers to high-impact areas and expanding the Homeless Liaison Program (HLP) team.
Ensure effective, safe and respectful use of the Library
-Two additional Library Services Officers will be funded for an 18-month limited term pilot.
-A full-time social worker will be funded for a 12-month pilot to conduct homeless outreach and train staff.
-Regular Pop-up Resource Fairs are bringing local and regional agencies to the Library.
Increase availability of housing and homeless prevention
-Housing staff recommend use of locally allocated federal funds to support rehabilitation of a Venice supportive housing development in exchange for three units being dedicated to Santa Monica homeless residents.
-Preventing homelessness among existing residents through flexible funding for eviction prevention, housing rights education and protection, tenant harassment and eviction defense through Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and the Senior Housing Taskforce to prevent vulnerable low-income seniors from losing housing.
Activate city and community stakeholders to collectively address homelessness
-The City is investing in a Senior Advisor on Homelessness who will actively engage with the growing number of county and regional partners in ever-accelerating homeless efforts. The Senior Advisor will ensure the City is participating in policy and resource discussions regionally, while facilitating coordination across City departments.
-The City secured $70,000 in LA County Measure H funds, through United Way of Greater Los Angeles, to design a flexible training curriculum for City staff, businesses and residents to safely and effectively interact with homeless neighbors.
“We are committing to unprecedented coordination and proactive engagement to do everything we can to connect homeless individuals with the services and interventions needed to become stable,” said City Manager Rick Cole. “To deal effectively and humanely with this regional crisis and keep our city safe, we need the entire community to participate in this effort in new and creative ways.”
The success of these new investments will be monitored on a consistent basis through the city’s performance management system or “SaMoStat” process to do more of what works and change what is not working.