SANTA MONICA—On January 26, the city of Santa Monica will conduct its annual enumeration of the homeless. According to a recent press release, the counts help the city assess the effectiveness of the efforts implemented to address homelessness as well as “understand the changes in trends among the homeless population.”

When asked about the specific challenges faced when combating homelessness,Administrative Analyst City of Santa Monica Human Services Division, Natasha Guest,  informed Canyon News that there are varying degrees of homelessness ranging from chronicle (cases where substance abuse or mental illness result in long-term homelessness) to short-term (those who are homeless off and on, sporadically living with friends or family).

Guest stated, “It is extremely vital that we identify the specific problem to ensure we are applying the appropriate solution. It’s not as simple as handing someone a key to an apartment. Some people become entrenched. Going from living in the streets to living in an apartment is very psychologically challenging for some of these individuals.” She continued stating that cases involving substance abuse or mental illness, continued treatment is essential. “It takes a lot of patience. It’s often one step forward, two steps back,” said Guest.

In many cities, the lack of funding has decreased the number of programs initially implemented to address homelessness. Guest stated, “Santa Monica has been very fortunate. We’re not recession-proof, but we’ve fared better than other cities. We have $2.7 million dedicated specifically to fighting homelessness. It’s a 1.5 percent decrease from the current fiscal year, but that’s not bad. HUD provided $200,000 for our HPRP (Homelessness Prevention Rapid Housing Program).”

The annual enumeration count requires 200 people to carry out the event. All parts of the city are covered. Volunteers are paired up and given maps of specific areas to pursue. The HLP (Homelessness Liaison Program) Unit of the Santa Monica Police Department are also active participants in the event.

Guest described the event stating, “The homeless are generally counted at night while most of the individuals are asleep. This is done to avoid counting the same people more than once. The event kicks off at 11 p.m. at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Participants receive an hour of training before heading out. Three hours are allotted for the event but volunteers are generally home by 1:30 a.m.” Guest continued, “The police department is out in full force that night to ensure the safety of the volunteers. Participants are provided a staff cell phone should a situation arise. There has never been an incident before, but it’s good to be prepared.”

There are no specific requirements to participate in the event. Those with physical limitations can choose to patrol by vehicle rather than on foot.

Refreshments will be provided during the hour-long training. Local businesses that are contributing in-kind donations to the event include: Bayside District Corporation, Pacific Park, Panera Bread Santa Monica, Peet’s Coffee, Santa Monica’s Cooperative Natural Grocer, The Lobster, Whole Foods, Neli’s Catering & Restaurant, Sushi Roku Santa Monica, Boa Steakhouse Santa Monica and Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.

Those interested in participating in the event can RSVP by completing a brief survey at or by contacting Dina Aubrey at 310-458-8701 or