By Dolores Quintana
A new report shows that the City of Santa Monica spends nearly $5 million on homeless outreach services.
According to a new report, Overview of Homeless Outreach and Hygiene Services, commissioned by the Santa Monica City Council, the City has set aside $4,839,489 in the service of outreach to the unhoused, out of a total budget of $707.8 million in fiscal 2021-22. The 2020 homeless count showed that there were 907 people who were considered homeless and 601 who were considered unsheltered. The City’s shelter capacity is “186 interim beds for individuals, 67 interim beds for families, and 116 substance use treatment beds.” from a report issued in February of 2021
City Councilmember Phil Brock requested the report and, as quoted by The Santa Monica Lookout, said “I’m not satisfied with what we’re doing. We’re spending millions of dollars, and we’re not seeing the results. We’ve been doing this over and over for so many years” Brock also stated that he believes that the number of the unhoused in Santa Monica may be much larger than what the official count has found and he said that the City Council had not been considering alternatives.
Santa Monica City’s Homeless outreach teams are divided into generalist teams and multidisciplinary teams. These are the generalist teams:
West Coast Care is managed by The Santa Monica Fire Department. It is a “nonprofit organization that provides proactive homeless outreach on the Santa Monica Pier and Beach. The team’s three outreach specialists engage people in their service area, offering essentials such as food, water, and hygiene products while providing information on Project Homecoming – the City’s family reunification program – and mainstream social services.” This plan is budgeted for $210,000 in fiscal year 2021-2022.
Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) Ambassadors are not a service that is only intended to serve the unhoused community, but “ all Ambassadors receive specific training on de-escalation, engaging people experiencing homelessness and providing referral information to local/regional social service agencies. DTSM’s Quality of Life (QOL) Ambassadors possess enhanced skills/training and work collaboratively with the City’s outreach teams and first responders to effectively engage people experiencing homelessness while addressing disruptive and unsafe behavior in the downtown area.” This plan is budgeted for $1.3M for Tongva, Palisades, & Reed Park Ambassadors in fiscal year 2021-2022 with additional non-city funding of $2,365,434 for Hospitality Ambassadors and $1,119,272 for Safety/Quality of Life Ambassadors.
These are the multidisciplinary teams:
Homeless Multidisciplinary Street Team (HMST), operated by The People’s Concern and “services a discrete cohort of 25 chronically homeless individuals identified as the highest utilizers of local police and fire services. HMST is staffed by licensed mental health professionals, housing case managers, substance use specialists, licensed medical providers (nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, or physician), psychiatrist, and a peer with lived experience.” This plan is budgeted for $600,000 in fiscal year 2021-2022.
Two C3 (“City + County + Community”) teams, who are “staffed similarly to HMST, C3 teams are deployed proactively to the areas of the city with the highest concentration of unsheltered homelessness. One C3 team serves the Downtown Santa Monica area (including Tongva, Palisades and Reed Parks) and the second focuses on the south beach (including the Pier, beach parking lots, and adjacent parks).” This plan is budgeted for $800,000 in fiscal year 2021-2022.
The report additionally lists two other teams related to city services:
SMPD Homeless Liaison Program (HLP) Team which “has led the Police Department’s engagement efforts with people experiencing homelessness, providing linkages to social services, mental health evaluation, and enforcement of applicable laws for the purpose of public health and safety. Through its partnership with LA County Department of Mental Health (DMH), two full-time mental health clinicians work alongside sworn SMPD officers. One clinician is embedded with the HLP Team, and the other is assigned to assist patrol officers.” This plan is budgeted for $2.24M in city funding and the county pays for the DMH clinicians at no cost to the City.
SMFD’s Community Response Unit (CRU) that was launched in Sept. 2021 which “provides an alternate engagement for lower acuity, less urgent incidents, with a focus on serving people experiencing homelessness, seniors, and other vulnerable populations. CRU members receive additional training on homelessness and behavioral health, and participate in regular care coordination meetings with City departments and homeless service providers.” This plan costs : $589,489: ongoing personnel: $479,643; ongoing supplies/equipment: $44,146; one-time supplies/equipment: $65,700 in total.
A future program that is on the horizon is the Therapeutic Transport Van that is a partnership between the City Manager’s office and the LA County Department of Mental Health. This service will be a “pilot an alternate dispatch model this fiscal year for non-violent mental health related calls for service.” that will be “staffed by behavioral health professionals and people with lived experience will be deployed to calls that would be better served by connections to supportive resources than by the criminal justice system, offering a safer, more specialized response, and freeing up first responders to focus on public safety priorities.”. The Therapeutic Transport Van will be available 24 hours a day and seven days a week and available exclusively to the City of Santa Monica. The funding from the City of Santa Monica is $400,000 with additional non-city funding in amounts that are undisclosed at this time.