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Urban Institute’s Report on Homelessness:

The Urban Institute, consultants for the City of Santa Monica, presented their findings after a system-wide analysis of the City’s “Continuum of Care and Strategic Five-Year Plan” to the City Council last Tuesday.

The City’s current core of homeless support agencies that provide the continuum of care are Chrysalis, the CLARE Foundation, New Directions, OPCC, St. Joseph Center, Step Up on Second and Upward Bound House. Some of the key supportive agencies that work along with the core agencies are Common Ground, Community Corporation of Santa Monica, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and the Westside Food Bank.

The findings characterized the demographic characteristics of homeless people who had records with the continuum of care (tracked by ClientTrack) agencies in 2005-2006 and found 91 percent were single, 7 percent were couples, 2 percent were families and 60 percent were males. The median age of a Santa Monica homeless person was 42. They also found that 53 percent were white, 36 percent were African American, 14 percent were Hispanic, 11 percent were members of other races and 10 percent were veterans.

Analysis of the same records for disabling conditions and other complicating conditions showed that 80 percent of the homeless have substance abuse issues while 56 percent have only substance abuse issues. In addition, 38 percent of the homeless on record have mental illness while 14 percent have only mental illness and 24 percent have both mental illness and substance abuse issues. Only six percent of the homeless had neither mental illness nor substance abuse issues. Lastly, 33 percent of the homeless are chronically homeless, “that is, they have a disability and have been homeless for one+ years or four times in the last three years.”

A one-day estimate of the number of homeless in Santa Monica on June 30, 2006 was 2,800 people. This is based on those connected to core agencies that were tracked (1,900) and estimates from the providers of those not tracked (900).

The evaluation found that the City’s core programs provided “housing placement and retention rates that are excellent compared to available national data, 32 percent of core agency clients were placed in full-time employment, and out of 17 programs with City grants, 14 met or exceeded 80 percent of their program goals.”

Key issues regarding the homeless were also identified by the consultants and were the basis for their recommendations. One issue was “public places are used by the homeless in ways that intrude on the rights” of others. The consultants suggested an anti-panhandling campaign, good neighbor agreements between homeless providers and their neighbors and creating clean and safe teams to remove trash and graffiti and improve safety.

Another issue is that most people who are homeless in Santa Monica “are from somewhere else.” Suggestions for this issue included gathering better information and using it for “fair share” solutions regionally, changing how access centers work in terms of who they serve, expanding the Project Homecoming bus ticket program and “creating better linkages with mainstream service providers and homeless service providers outside of Santa Monica.”

Additionally, “the City needs to know where it fits in an overall strategy to address homelessness.” The consultants’ recommendations in this area included “establishing top goals for city agencies in collaboration with other stakeholders, developing an annual budget and working on County-wide issues.”

Another problem revealed by the analysis is that “there is no ‘table’ to which people can bring issues and feel they will be resolved.” To solve this, the consultants recommended “establishing an ongoing, independent Community Roundtable with all stakeholders at the table” and developing a strategic plan.

For more information, go to smgov.net and click on “Issue in Action: Homelessness,” then click on “Evaluation of Santa Monica’s Continuum of Care.”

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