The Santa Monica citywide homeless count conducted on Jan. 26 found that the number of homeless in the city remained at 740, which is almost. the same as the 2010 results. The tally was announced at the Feb. 28 Santa Monica Social Services Commission meeting.
This 2011 total reflects a street homeless population of 263 people, a shelter and institutions population of 426 individuals, and 51 individuals living in cars or encampments. The count did not find any families living on the street. However, 101-or 24-percent of the sheltered population were members of families.
The federal government requires that a count be done every other year for all communities that receive federal homeless funds but Santa Monica started doing annual counts in 2010. The presentation by Margaret Willis, a City administrative analyst, noted that the annual count helps the City “leverage federal, state and local funding and to quantify the effects of our policies and programs.” The City has been doing a homeless count since 2005.
Willis also explained the methodology used for the 2011 count. One hundred and fifty volunteers were divided into 62 teams that covered the city’s 19 census tracts, and City staff counted the homeless in shelters, in motels, in jail, and in hospitals.
The same methodology has been used since 2009 so data comparisons can be analyzed. The first reduction ever (18.9 percent) was observed in 2010 when compared to the totals for 2009. When the totals for 2011 were compared to 2009, a 19 percent reduction was found.
Willis also noted the City’s recent efforts to prevent increases in new homelessness that may have helped the homeless rate remain almost constant. This included the Eviction Prevention and Rehousing Assistance Program, made possible by federal stimulus funds received in 2009 that so far have helped more than 100 people from becoming homeless. This was done “by identifying people who were on the verge of eviction and by providing them financial assistance and case management.” Additionally, the City continues to promote “housing first” to move people on the street into permanent housing.
Many of the people were found in areas that historically had dense concentrations of homeless people. They were downtown, along the Wilshire and Olympic corridors. This year there was a return of homeless individuals to the beaches and to areas surrounding the beaches. Also noted this year was a migration of homeless people from areas adjacent to downtown back into the downtown area.
John Maceri, the executive director of the Ocean Park Community Center, said he is “encouraged when he sees the numbers.”
“Santa Monica is well positioned … to actually eliminate street homelessness in the next couple of years,” he said, adding that this is possible because the numbers are manageable.
“My expectation would have been [that] due to the economy we would have seen homelessness grow in Santa Monica substantially and it hasn’t,” said Santa Monica Police Chief Timothy Jackman. “That has to go back to the success of all of us working together with a common end in mind.”
Other programs that have helped with the stability in numbers are the Service Registry that gives intensive services to the city’s most vulnerable homeless individuals as determined by their length of time on the streets, age, and physical and mental health conditions. Another is the Homeless Community Court that uses the criminal justice system to encourage the homeless to participate in treatment by reducing or eliminating outstanding citations or warrants. Another successful program has been Project Homecoming, which gives transportation assistance to individuals who wish to be reunited with family or friends out of the area.
Santa Monica’s homeless count was part of a homeless count taken throughout the county by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. However, the county conducts its count every other year, whereas Santa Monica has opted to perform the evaluation annually. Their results will be released in the summer of 2011.