SaMo working hard to prevent homelessness

Santa Monica is a beautiful city with great shopping areas, a famous beach and pier, and a plethora of attributes that attract tourists year-round. The city’s vagrancy problem, however, can cause people’s impression to sour, which is why the city of Santa Monica is dedicated to resolving the homeless issue.

According to the city of Santa Monica website, although it might seem that the number of homeless people has grown in recent years due to economic stresses, it is noteworthy that the homeless population has not increased.

The 2011 Homeless Count, which is mandated every two years by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for all communities that receive federal funds for homelessness programs, states that the overall homeless population has been showing meaningful reductions over the past couple of years.

Also, there has been no change in the number of homeless individuals living in Santa Monica from the previous year, and, according to the same source, a 19-percent reduction in homelessness had taken place after a two-year comparison from 2009-2011,

Previous Homeless Count reports show a downward trend. In 2009, the homeless total came up to 915 but the number shrank by 18.9 percent to 742 by the following year. Year 2011 saw another reduction to a total of 740.

“These kind of reductions in Santa Monica is how we measure our impact in preventing homelessness,” said Natasha Guest, senior administrative analyst for the city’s human services division.

According to Guest, Los Angeles County has more homeless individuals than any other county in the nation, and there are certain cities that have a greater prevalence of homelessness, because of their favorable conditions.

Likewise, the homeless may migrate to Santa Monica, since it is safer than Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, the tourist spots allow for panhandling, and the beach community provides access to public restrooms and showers.

“The majority of homeless people in Santa Monica do not become homeless in Santa Monica, but they come here from many different cities in California,” said Guest.

Guest explained that for this reason, the Human Services division in Santa Monica works with other cities, especially the Westside communities like Culver City, to try to provide services in these cities’ own backyards to serve and support homeless individuals.

The human services grant program at the of city of Santa Monica, has funded a variety of social services and has established three main initiatives, according to Guest.

The first initiative is the Chronic Homeless Project: Santa Monica’s Service Registry surveys to homeless population in order to keep track of the length of time a specific individual has spent on the streets, his or her age, and both the physical and mental health of the participants.

This information is then put into a database to calculate a participant’s vulnerability. Registry participants with the highest vulnerability rankings are then prioritized by the city for services and housing.

The second initiative is the Homeless Community Court Program, which “addresses the legal issues of homeless individuals with the purpose of connecting them to services and permanent housing.”

The program offers participants of non-violent misdemeanors services in job training, rehabilitation, mental health care, and permanent housing and participants who successfully complete the program would have their charges dismissed by the court.

The third initiative is Project Homecoming, a program where Santa Monica’s homeless individuals are reunited with their family and friends “who are willing to offer permanent housing and support.

Local service providers confirm housing support at the destination city and conduct follow up calls to ensure the participant arrived safely, and follow up again in four months to make sure the participant is still housed.”

Guest says that the city of Santa Monica should continue helping other cities to provide homeless individuals with services to prevent them from migrating to Santa Monica and ask for help at a local, state, and federal level to provide more assistance for the cities to help establish the services to combat the issues that cause homeless itself.

However, as Guest noted, these actions likely won’t take place for some time since the state of California is not in the best place economically.