Santa Monica Annual Homeless Review Reveals Improvements, Dwindling Resources

Tuesday, 11 Dec 2012, 1:22:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

There are fewer homeless people now in Santa Monica than three years ago, but City Hall is running out of resources to help them, according to City staff.

In a presentation to council members on Nov. 27, City staff discussed the Annual Homeless Review and revealed the number of people spending the night on Santa Monica’s streets dropped by about 150 since 2009. However, with the loss of redevelopment funds earlier this year, there is less money available for affordable housing programs.

With a recent state law allowing a wave of inmates to be released from prison and an expected increase in war veterans returning home, resources for affordable housing and homelessness are expected to be stretched thin.

According to City staff, the total homeless count in Santa Monica was 915, including 480 on the street and 435 in shelters. That number dropped to 769 in 2012, including 264 on the street, 453 in shelters, and 52 in vehicles.

City staff reported 742 total homeless in 2010 and 740 in 2011.

The annual review pointed out the City experienced a 34 percent “reduction in street homelessness documented in 2010, with over 150 fewer people sleeping on city streets since 2009.”

However, City staff added homelessness continues to be concentrated in the downtown area.

The annual review focused on five areas: local impacts and perceptions of homelessness; local resources and responses; continuing challenges; regional coordination and advocacy; and next steps.

“The two main community impacts of homelessness are on the perception of Santa Monica as a safe and enjoyable place to live and visit and the frequent requests for first responder interventions in situations involving homeless persons,” City staff stated.

City Hall still provides funding for social services related to homelessness. According to a City staff report, funding six core non-profit agencies with $2.3 million in (Fiscal Year) 2011-2012 through a combination of City General Funds, Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, Federal Supportive Housing Program (SHP) funds, and County Proposition A funds.

An addition $5.9 million in private and public funding was raised by the six homeless services agencies, providing Santa Monica participants over $3.50 worth of services for every City dollar invested.

Yet the loss of redevelopment funds negatively alters City Hall’s ability to fund homelessness programs.

“The 2012 dissolution of California Redevelopment Agencies greatly impacts the City’s ability to provide funding for the development of affordable housing by significantly reducing the amount of funds that the Housing Division has available to finance the construction of future supportive housing developments,” City staff stated. “The Housing and Economic Development Department will continue to investigate alternative funding sources.”

Beyond the loss of redevelopment funds, other challenges Santa Monica faces in dealing with homelessness include the risk of more homeless people coming into town from Los Angeles or other nearby communities,

Just the same, City staff anticipates the recent decision to close the Venice boardwalk daily between midnight and 5 a.m. may push homeless individuals north into Santa Monica.

“Mapping of individuals during the January 2012 Homeless Count supports the theory that some of Venice’s homeless population may have migrated to the southwestern Santa Monica border for the purposes of sleeping in the City,” City staff stated.

Yet another challenge: the recent passage of the Public Safety Realignment Program, which, according to City staff, resulted in the release of approximately 9,500 individuals from prison to Post-Release Community Supervision (PCS) in Los Angeles County for the previous fiscal year. City staff estimates between 1,000 and 1,200 of those individuals released are homeless.

The Veterans Administration (VA) in West Los Angeles has been struggling to provide adequate housing for homeless veterans.

Meanwhile, Santa Monica hopes to partner with the United Way in its plan to help provide permanent housing for chronically homeless individuals.

Looking forward, City Hall hopes to continue refining its Action Plan to continue addressing homelessness. Just the same, Santa Monica also aims to collaborate with local agencies and address homelessness both locally and regionally.

The City also hopes to advocate for a fair share of VA resources for the Westside with a focus on the creation of more permanent supportive housing.

City staff will provide another annual review of homelessness in Santa Monica next December.

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