They are familiar faces in Santa Monica. Some gather in public places – sitting in pairs in Reed Park, or huddling on a bench or sidewalk covered by coats or blankets. Others are less visible, their sleeping areas so well hidden that they seem to disappear after dark.
They are our neighbors – men and women who have lived without homes for years, sometimes decades. Some of us call them “bag ladies” or “vagrants,” or “bums.” In current bureaucratic lingo, they’re the “chronically homeless,” or sometimes “long-term homeless,” or, pointing to one of government’s prime motivations for naming them at all, the “visibly homeless.”
In response to growing concern about the long-term homeless people living on city streets, Santa Monica, along with four local social service agencies, began a pilot program in July, 2004. The model uses a multi-disciplinary team to strategically assess the needs of chronically homeless individuals, build rapport and trust, and focus on interventions appropriate to each person’s needs – including securing permanent housing.
Due in part to the early success of the Chronic Homeless Program, the City was recently selected as one of 10 communities nationwide to receive a federal grant to help combat long-term homelessness.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that Santa Monica will receive over $700,000 for rental subsidies and other costs over two years to provide permanent housing with supportive services to house 30 persons who are chronically homeless and addicted to alcohol.
The focus of the grant is Santa Monica’s long-term homeless individuals who are living on the streets, and are disabled by chronic alcohol abuse. Although they are often the most reluctant to seek out services, these individuals tend to be the biggest users of public services and resources, such as police, paramedics and hospital emergency rooms.
“The grant money can only be used for rental subsidies,” explained Stacy Rowe, the City’s Human Services Director, “[but that provision of dollars] allows us to put more folks who qualify for this program into housing and to provide them services, so this will allow us to expand the program more quickly.” While HUD grant funds will go towards rents, the City and its partner agencies will provide the services needed to assist individuals in finding housing and staying in it.
Supportive services will begin during a six-month period of stabilization before placing individuals in permanent housing and will continue the services, including programs addressing each client’s alcohol addiction, after they are housed.
“This grant will be of great benefit to clients [who participate in the program], as it’s primarily focused on housing resources,” said John Maceri, Executive Director of OPCC, pointing out that finding safe and affordable permanent housing on the Westside is an extremely difficult task for anyone these days, let alone people who have been living on the streets for years.
OPCC is a partner agency of the City in the Chronic Homeless Program, along with the CLARE Foundation, New Directions, St. Joseph’s Center, Step Up on Second, Venice Family Clinic, the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, local hospitals and others.
To date, the pilot project has served 25 individuals, with an average time of homelessness of 12 years. Of these individuals, 10 now live in permanent housing; three are in temporary housing with placements pending; one is living on the street with placement pending; eight are homeless and in the process of engagement; two are in jail or in the hospital; and one has died.
The other communities selected for the grant are Chicago, Chattanooga, Contra Costa County, Denver, Jacksonville, New York, San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Cruz.
The grant was supported by several community organizations and civic leaders, including: Congressman Henry A. Waxman; Judge Bernard J. Kamins; Chrysalis; Common Ground, The Westside HIV Community Center; Hand to Hand; Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health; Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority; St. John’s Health Center; Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center; Side by Side; Step Up on Second; Venice Family Clinic and others.Officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will present the grant to City leaders on Tuesday, September 13, at the beginning of the Santa Monica City Council meeting, 6:45 p.m., in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1685 Main St.