Santa Monica’s Homeless Czar, former County Supervisor Edward Edelman, told the City Council Tuesday night that significant progress has been made in dealing with the City’s homeless problem.
Edelman noted that the City has been “successful in getting the big food providers” [Hope and Hand To Hand which represent 75 percent of the homeless feeding programs] to realize “they can better serve the homeless inside where services are available.” Until now, the homeless have been fed at such City locations as Palisades Park and the City Hall lawn. The problem with this is feeding the homeless without linking them to other services has not been found to be an effective way to address the homeless problem in the long term.
The homeless Czar emphasized the City has “established a new relationship with the homeless feeders.” Indoor feeding “should be underway in the next two months.”
City Manager P. Lamont Ewell stated that the feeding would now be done at the 600 block of Colorado. The Council was very pleased with this announcement. Council member Herb Katz stressed, “Moving feeding programs inside is critical” so the homeless can access the City’s continuum of services.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown reminded everyone that this “is something the Homeless Task Force 15 years ago called for. It was a suggestion I made instead of an ordinance four years ago. It was an intractable problem many people have worked upon.”
Edelman also noted that the region’s “momentum and commitment has resulted in a number of objective results.” Most importantly, the County’s authorization of $6 million to deal with homeless issues helped fund the $500,000 needed to get Santa Monica’s Homeless Community Court going. This will link “City services to those who are in need of them” because they “have been arrested for quality of life crimes.” It will be located in the courthouse next to City Hall rather than at the Airport Courthouse because it will be more accessible. The court will open in 60 days. He “hopes to publicize the Community Court concept and have a conference bringing in people from the state as well as nationally” so other communities can set up a similar program.
In other regional action, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency (LAHSA) is hiring an Executive Director while the California Endowment, the Weingard Foundation and the Hilton Foundation have organized a group to deal with homeless issues. Edelman is a member of the search committee for the Executive Director.