The recent downturn in the economy has greatly increased the demand for social services in Santa Monica, but at the same time budgets at the many agencies that provide these services are shrinking. This issue was addressed at the second annual Santa Monica Community Social Services Symposium which was held at the Salvation Army Corps Community Center in Santa Monica.A major theme that resonated throughout the April 29 symposium was that there should be better communication between the different agencies so coordination of services can be accomplished and duplication can be avoided. This can help facilitate helping those who need a variety of services and reduce costs for individual agencies.Much of the symposium was spent on having representatives from the different social service agencies giving brief presentations on the services they provide. Julie Taren from the City of Santa Monica Social Services Division explained that her division has a homeless unit, a children, family and senior unit and a parks initiative unit to help assist residents. The parks initiative includes after school programs at School District sites, the Police Activities League (PAL), and programs at Virginia Avenue Park.Julie Friedman from Family [email protected] discussed the many issues low-wage workers confront when trying to hold down a job such as finding affordable day-care or housing. Her agency helps these people by connecting them with the appropriate social service agencies.Kathleen Rawson from the City’s Bayside District Corporation and Officer Robert Martinez from the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) also discussed the approaches they are taking to connect those in need with social services. Rawson described the new Ambassador program that will begin on June 1 in downtown Santa Monica. One of the responsibilities of the Ambassadors will be to encourage people they feel are in need of help to contact the appropriate social service agency. Martinez explained that the SMPD has a Homeless Liaison Program that “combines law enforcement with social services” referrals. Captain John Stennett from the Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters stated that his agency is “seeing a lot more people that we’ve never seen before. People who normally are able to take care of themselves and now they can’t because of the economy.” Some of them have lost their job or can’t pay their mortgage. They are trying to assist people so they can stay in their homes by giving them food so they will have money for their other expenses. Participants also stressed the need to develop a more comprehensive master list of social service agencies to provide more information for both those in need and those who want to volunteer to help those in need.
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