June 21, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

City of Santa Monica to Vote on Declaring a State of Emergency on Homelessness

Vote to following similar actions seen in City of Los Angeles, Culver City, Long Beach in LA County

By Dolores Quintana

On Tuesday, February 14, the Santa Monica City Council will vote on a request from the City Manager to proclaim a state of emergency in Santa Monica regarding homelessness following Municipal Code Chapter 2.16. This would follow the actions of the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, Culver City and Long Beach, cities and the county that have already declared a state of emergency on homelessness in each area. According to a City of Santa Monica press release, this action is would allow “regional cooperation with other government agencies, allow the City to apply for and accept grant funds, allow the City to take expedited actions to address imminent health and safety impacts caused by the homelessness crisis, and enable the City to deploy resources and take actions to address homelessness more quickly.” 

If the city council adopts the proposal, a copy of the proclamation will be forwarded to the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management and the Director of California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, requesting that the Director approve it and then that the Governor issue a proclamation declaring an emergency in for the city of Santa Monica in Los Angeles County. This will allow the Governor to waive regulations that may hinder response and recovery efforts and make it possible for the city to receive recovery assistance available under the California Disaster Assistance Act, and that the state government expedites access to state and Federal resources and any other appropriate federal disaster relief programs.

Homelessness is a crisis of massive proportions all over the country. In the most recent homeless count in 2022, 582,462 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States, 171,521 in California, 69,144 in Los Angeles County, and 807 in Santa Monica. As reported earlier this month, Metro Los Angeles is trying to create a plan to help shelter many of the unhoused people who are using public transportation as shelter and who Metro has to force out of the trains into the night at the end of service. Up to 800 people seek shelter on trains and buses nightly. One of the terminuses of a Metro rail line, The Expo line, is in Santa Monica.

The Santa Monica City Council affirmed that addressing the homeless issue was a top priority for the city in May 2022. 

According to the staff report, the proclamation would take effect immediately and notice would be given throughout the City and expire no later than 180 days after its approval unless repealed sooner or extended by Council. The Director of Emergency Services or the City Manager would then be able to seek, receive, budget, and expend all potential funding sources that may be used to address the homelessness crisis.

City staff also noted evidence of the worsening issue with examples from city agencies:

1.    An increasing number of calls-for-service to the Police Department attributed to people experiencing homelessness. In 2021, the Police Department received 18,564 calls-for-service and in 2022, the Police Department received 19,946 calls-for-service.
2.    An increasing number of calls-for-service to the Fire Department attributed to people experiencing homelessness. In 2021, the Fire Department received 2,672 calls-for-service and in 2022, the Fire Department received 3,017 calls-for-service.
3.    An increasing number of encampments. In 2021, the Police Department responded to 1,630 encampments and in 2022, the Police Department responded to 1,879 encampments.
4.    An increase in the number of public death cases attributed to individuals experiencing homelessness. In 2022, the City responded to 20 public death cases,
5.    An increase in the number of outdoor fires and arson that resulted in the Fire Department responding to 393 fires in 2022, a 26% increase compared to 2021.
6.    An increase in the amount of general debris, encampments and vandalism. An estimated $4 million of the Public Works Department annual maintenance budget is utilized in service of providing facilities and amenities such as clean restrooms, showers, and clean drinking water for the homeless population, as well as cleaning public spaces like beaches, parks, the downtown area and public right of way that are heavily utilized by people experiencing homelessness. On average, the Public Works Department estimates that approximately 20-40 concentrated areas of the congregation by unhoused residents are serviced weekly.
7.   According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, approximately 207 people a day are rehoused at the same time as 227 become homeless.

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