SANTA MONICA—Santa Monica City Council members unanimously voted to extend the local emergency order on homelessness to May 31, 2024, at a regular meeting on May 9. The Council’s action followed a comprehensive report presented by City staff delivering the results of the 2023 Homeless Count in January. The count showed that 926 people were experiencing homelessness in Santa Monica, a 15 percent increase from the 2022 Homeless Count where 807 individuals were identified as unhoused.
“There’s an imbalance of resources in the system across Santa Monica and throughout the region,” said Santa Monica City Manager, David White. “We live in a region that has failed to maintain and develop an adequate supply of housing. Adequate levels of affordable housing and permanent supportive housing are the most critical components to homelessness prevention and resolution.”
In February of this year, the Council declared a local emergency on homelessness, and in March, authorized the city to move forward with investments in homelessness prevention now that resources are available. According to White, the new initiatives presented in the Strategic Plan to Address Homelessness on Tuesday, build upon “the police department’s homelessness liaison team, outreach teams staffed with medical, mental health, and substance abuse professionals, eviction protection, and right to council resources.”
Santa Monica also has plans to launch a pilot program featuring a therapeutic transport van where medical professionals will “co-respond to incoming emergency calls related to, or presumed to involve, non-combative, medically stable individuals experiencing a mental health crisis,” according to a press release posted by the City on May 11. With the goal of implementing a 24/7 service, the City has allocated $464,000 to the program.
The City’s initiatives were detailed in four pillars of strategy:
Preventing Homelessness: Preventing housed Santa Monicans from becoming homeless and increasing affordable housing opportunities.
Behavioral Health: Addressing the physical and behavioral health needs of vulnerable residents by providing more access to healthcare.
Safe Public Spaces: Continuously enhancing our approach to maintaining equitable access to safe, fun, and healthy open spaces.
Regional Capacity: Strengthening regional capacity to address homelessness.
“Sitting here and being a lifelong resident of Santa Monica, I think it’s safe to say that this is the most robust plan to address homelessness in the history of the city,” said Council Member Oscar de la Torre. “In terms of resources, in terms of programs, it’s the most we’ve ever done, and it’s probably still not going to be enough.”
A concern of several city council members was the large number of homeless individuals in Santa Monica not from the area. De la Torre said he spends a lot of time speaking with unhoused people in Santa Monica, and “98% of people,” he estimated, are from out of state. As a result, De la Torre also said a key focus of these initiatives should be the pillar of regional capacity, calling on surrounding regions to introduce their own initiatives and share the financial burden in support of Santa Monica.
“On the horizon this year are new developments,” said O’Shea Stevenson of the Community Services Department. “Las Flores with 73 units, 1819 Pico Boulevard with 48 units, the Laurel with 57 units, and Little Berkeley with 13 units.”
In addition, according to Stevenson, “Parking structure 3 located at 1318 4th Street was demolished in Fall of 2022 to make way for a 100% affordable housing development with at least 100 units, and the planning for that continues.”
For progress updates and more information, visit the City of Santa Monica’s website at https://www.santamonica.gov/topic-explainers/homelessness.