February 26, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

SMa.r.t.-Refugees in Our Midst

The music could be heard from blocks away. A man holding a large boombox on his shoulder, striding down Santa Monica Boulevard toward the Promenade, followed by a couple dancing happily to the loud rhythm.

As the celebrating trio drew near, this writer noticed an elderly man dressed in rags and wearing a hospital patient’s wristband, sprawled on the sidewalk next to REI. His back against the building wall, his head falling off to one side and then the other, he seemed unable to remain conscious. The dancing couple walked by, seemingly unaware, and the gentleman on the ground fell to one side. I called 911.

In the last year, Santa Monica’s homeless population rose by 26 percent. By May of this year, according to a report received by City Council, the city’s homeless population reached nearly 1,000 residents; an increase of almost 200 over last year. For the past several years the city’s homeless population had remained relatively stable, after dropping significantly between 2009 and 2010. But this year the numbers have climbed back to 2009’s figures. Almost every block in the Downtown area has homeless individuals seeking help, and late at night the Promenade turns into a kind of dormitory, with almost every bench occupied by a sleeping person.

Many of us are used to arguing about the selfishness and self-regard of the top 1 percent. The homeless individuals in our town amount to 1 percent of our population as well; but these are the bottom one-percenters, and often the sickest and most vulnerable ones too. For the past few years we have witnessed the refugee crisis in Europe; the result of wars, famine and economic dislocation. But what are the homeless people in our own community if not refugees? They too have become victims of dislocation and forces beyond their control.

For many people in this town, the tragedy of homelessness has become a kind of pervasive and unsolvable condition, like the weather, with the victims blending – seemingly invisibly – into the background noise. Homeless individuals walk around town like ghosts, and sleep on the sidewalks at night in crowds, ignored by almost every passer-by. We avoid dealing with this problem at our peril. The more the challenge grows, the harder it will be to find solutions.

Cities are intended for people. Not corporations, not developers and not faceless institutions. When we adjust the city’s design, it needs to account for everyone living and working in it, and that includes folks without homes. It may not be easy to reconcile the needs of everyone within the tent, but that is the task that is required now, and the solution we expect from our leaders and institutions. In coming weeks the SMa.r.t. group will publish more articles on this topic, discuss the city’s planning and design issues that accompany homelessness, and propose a variety of ideas and solutions.

By the time this article is published, City Council will have received its latest Homelessness report and discussed the recommendations it contains. The city has developed a Strategic Goal Action Plan to deal with the matter, and the staff has recommended a number of actions, including the creation of homeless outreach teams, new and better training, and better use of local resources. The staff report is available here: tinyurl.com/yd2h7ujf. Santa Monica has never been at a loss for creative solutions, but the trick lies in implementation. We will see, in coming months, how these recommendations get carried out.

A few minutes after my call to 911, the sirens could be heard. The elderly gentleman on the ground heard the signal and attempted to get up. The Fire Department’s truck arrived in short order, and the well-practiced team descended and immediately came to the man’s help. He wanted to go to the hospital, but on his own power. The firefighters checked him out briefly, helped him to his feet, and he walked off, slowly and painfully, toward Santa Monica Hospital. I identified myself to the friendly officer in charge, and answered a few questions, including the reason for my call. Then he asked me, with a quizzical look: are you from around here?

The reason for the question was obvious.

“Cities are intended for people. Not corporations, not developers and not faceless institutions.”
Photo: Wikicommons

Daniel Jansenson, Architect, Building and Fire Life Safety Commission, for SMa.r.t.

(Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow)Thane Roberts AIA, Robert H. Taylor AIA, Daniel Jansenson Architect, Building and Fire-Life Safety Commissioner, Ron Goldman FAIA, Samuel Tolkin Architect, Mario Fonda-Bonardi AIA, Planning Commissioner, Phil Brock, Arts Commissioner.

Related Posts

S.M.a.r.t Column: Gelson’s Looms Large

February 22, 2024

February 22, 2024

Our guest column this week is by SMCLC (the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City). SMCLC is a well-established...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Top Toady Town

February 18, 2024

February 18, 2024

Throughout history, from the ancient Romans and Assyrians to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, siege warfare has served as an...

S.M.a.r.t Column: The Sunset of Home Ownership

February 11, 2024

February 11, 2024

We are watching the sunset of our historical and cultural American dream of home ownership as we now are crossing...

SMa.r.t. Column: B(U)Y RIGHT

February 4, 2024

February 4, 2024

“By Right” state housing laws that give developers, in certain projects, the ability to ignore codes ‘by right.’ Well, that...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Serf City

January 28, 2024

January 28, 2024

Homelessness is a problem in California, and nowhere is this more evident than in our fair city, where the unhoused...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Bond Fatigue

January 22, 2024

January 22, 2024

Last week’s SMart article,  described two critical problems faced by our Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD): the declining...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Peace on Earth

December 27, 2023

December 27, 2023

We are all, by now, saturated with jingles, holiday cards, “ho ho ho’s,” countless commercial advertisements, and exhortations to feel...

S.M.a.r.t Column: On the Clock with Mayor Brock

December 17, 2023

December 17, 2023

I became Santa Monica’s Mayor on Tuesday, December 12, 2023, following a simple “switch of the chairs” transition with outgoing...

S.M.a.r.t Column: SANTA MONICA CITY COUNCIL 2024

December 10, 2023

December 10, 2023

Position:Seeking Santa Monica City Council Candidate(s) Introduction:Exciting opportunity for the right candidate(s) to work with like-minded Council members committed to...

S.M.a.r.t Column: ARB (NOT Ready to Build!)

December 3, 2023

December 3, 2023

Santa Monica City’s Architectural Review Board (ARB), established in 1974, acts “…to preserve existing areas of natural beauty, cultural importance...

SMa.r.t. Column: We are thankful for….

November 27, 2023

November 27, 2023

SMa.r.t. would like to wish you all a great Thanksgiving with friends and family and also to thank its readers...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Make the City New Again

November 19, 2023

November 19, 2023

When the COVID crisis struck, it cut the city’s income in half, demolishing many businesses and causing widespread layoffs and...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Four Futures

October 29, 2023

October 29, 2023

As well described by Paul Krugman, all cities have a core competency: things they do well or better regionally or...

SMa.r.t column: Beautiful Quartz Countertops Are Hurting Workers and Should Be Banned

October 9, 2023

October 9, 2023

Quartz countertops are super popular because they’re tough and can handle stains, scratches, and heat. But there’s a big problem:...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Architect’s Son Reflects On Civic Auditorium

October 2, 2023

October 2, 2023

Welton (David) Becket (1902-1969), pictured above, backed by a picture of our Civic Auditorium, was the designer of that famed...