A homeless man sleeps on a bench in Palisades Park on Monday. A recent count has the number of homeless on the decline. (Paul Alvarez Jr. editor@smdp.com)

A homeless man sleeps on a bench in Palisades Park on Monday. A recent count has the number of homeless on the decline. (Paul Alvarez Jr. editor@smdp.com)

CITYWIDE — Homelessness is down 5 percent in the city by the sea, rebounding after two years of increases, according to City Hall’s annual homeless count.

There were 742 homeless individuals counted in Santa Monica on the night of Jan. 29, the same amount counted back in 2010.

Last year, volunteers counted 780 homeless people.

The street count was down 9 percent, dropping to 346 from 380 last year.

Results in Downtown were down significantly: a 40 percent drop from 141 to 86 this year.

Once again, no families were found on the street, officials said.

Homeless totals were up in the 2012 and 2013 counts, partially a result of a struggling economy, officials said. This year’s drop brings the totals closer to where they were in 2010 and 2011.

John Maceri, executive director of OPCC, a Santa Monica-based homeless services provider, called the results “good news.”

“I thought the results would be down this year and they are,” he said. “That’s important, especially when you see what’s happening across L.A. County.”

Homelessness rose nearly 2 percent in the county last year, according to an August report from Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Still, Maceri said he wasn’t surprised by Santa Monica’s improvement.

“I didn’t expect there to be a precipitous drop, because homelessness is going up in other parts of the county, but I thought the numbers would come in slightly less than where we had been,” he said.

Several groups are likely responsible for the drop Downtown, he said.

The Downtown Ambassadors program has helped, he said, as has communication between local businesses, Downtown Santa Monica Inc., and local service providers. He’s seen improvements in Palisades Park and along the Third Street Promenade.

“I think there’s been a lot of effort working on the chronic homeless initiatives that all the providers have been working on with (City Hall),” he said. “We’ve really looked at addressing people who have been on the streets the longest and kind of looking at the anchors in the area, and I think that has helped.”

City officials also laud the Police Department’s Homeless Liaison Program (HLP).

“With patrol providing additional support, the police department was able to dedicate HLP Team resources to identify the most chronic and long-term homeless individuals in the downtown area and link them to housing and services,” city officials said in the report.

More than 250 community volunteers covered every street in the city (226 linear miles) during the count that’s been an annual event since 2010.

While Maceri wants to drop all of the numbers, he really wants to see the street numbers diminished.

“The shelter count isn’t going to dramatically move from year to year unless we actually lose beds, which I hope doesn’t happen,” he said. “I’m particularly interested in moving the needle on the street count.”

As is the case every year, there is still more work to be done, Maceri said.

“When I say we have more work to do, I don’t think any of us should think our work is done until we get to zero,” he said. “When we go out and don’t find anyone on the streets, that will be fantastic. Clearly, we’re not there yet.”

 

dave@smdp.com

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