The numerous social service agencies based in Santa Monica likely wouldn’t be able to function by themselves.

Westside Family Health Center regularly offers primary care to clients of OPCC, which operates several homeless shelters. Upward Bound House, which provides transitional housing, pays for a small portion of the food that Meals on Wheels West distributes to low-income and poor residents.

Indeed, the partnerships between these and other local nonprofit organizations underscore the importance of collaboration in serving the neediest people in the area.

“The issues of hunger, homelessness and access to healthcare are best addressed by people all working together to serve our most vulnerable neighbors,” OPCC executive director, John Maceri, said.

Relationships between the various groups manifest in concrete ways through the Westside Coalition, which is holding its 20th annual celebration breakfast Thursday, Oct. 29, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Loews hotel, 1700 Ocean Ave., in Santa Monica.

The event recognizes formerly homeless people who have transitioned into permanent housing with the help of the coalition, which includes several dozen social service organizations, public agencies and other charity groups.

Led by Darci Niva, the coalition and its member organizations try to fill gaps that arise as they provide housing, food, health care, employment assistance, counseling, substance abuse treatment and other services for people in need. The coalition also functions as a vehicle for education and political advocacy.

“We have come to realize that we are much stronger working together than any one organization is alone,” Niva said. “Although individual agencies have the ability to provide separate services for people in need, the efforts of the coalition help coordinate all services on the Westside in order to provide a true continuum of service care for the community.”

Santa Monica-based groups play major roles in the alliance. OPCC, Upward Bound House, Step Up On Second and Community Corporation of Santa Monica provide shelter and housing services.

Homelessness remains an issue in the area and cannot be solved by the City of Santa Monica alone, said OPCC’s Maceri, whose organization was a founding member of the coalition. There were 738 people tallied in the City’s homeless count in January, including more than 400 people on the streets.

“The City should continue to invest in homeless services and work with the City and County of LA to leverage and expand resources, particularly housing resources, so we can move more people off the streets and into permanent housing,” Maceri said.

Meanwhile, Westside Food Bank and Meals on Wheels West strive to address hunger in and around Santa Monica.

The food bank distributes some 4.5 million pounds of food annually to roughly 105,000 people, including tens of thousands of children, through more than 70 local social service agencies.

The local Meals on Wheels, meanwhile, has seen increased demand for its food delivery services in recent months.

“When you get people into transitional housing, we bring them food and check up on them,” said Ellen Rabin, community relations director for Meals on Wheels West. “They usually need additional services beyond a roof over their head.

“With the coalition, the goal is to take the homeless person or family and provide wrap-around services in the community to make sure they’re able to succeed and move forward.”

The coalition features several local churches and faith-based organizations, including First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, St. Monica Catholic Church, United Methodist Women, Unitarian Universalist Community Church and the local Salvation Army. Other local members of the alliance include the CLARE Foundation (substance abuse treatment) and Chrysalis (employment assistance).

“The Coalition members collaborate in many ways every day to improve the lives of our clients,” Maceri said.

Tickets to the coalition breakfast cost $50. For more information, visit www.westsideshelter.org.

jeff@smdp.com

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