In his letter of April 2, “Drinking the Kool-Aid,” Ron Di Costanzo, speaking of Bobby Shriver’s two terms as Santa Monica City Councilmember, asks, “And his success rate here was …?”
The answer: Extraordinarily high.
When Shriver came into office in 2004, the City Council and staff had settled into a homeless policy they thought was the best they could do. Shriver immediately shook up that attitude and transformed the way Santa Monica approaches homelessness.
He discovered that no programs existed to help the people who needed it most — the chronically homeless. Generally suffering from mental illness, addictions, or both, these are the most vulnerable and visible of the homeless population. Shriver pushed to create or expand six programs to house the chronically homeless.
Some of these solutions wouldn’t have happened without Shriver’s relentless work; others happened faster because of it. Here are the requested success rates (from the city’s website) for three of them:
The Homeless Service Registry identifies the 50 people living on Santa Monica streets who are most vulnerable to die. Case workers move down the list, placing each person in housing with supportive services. Besides giving these people their best chance for rehabilitation, the housing is much less expensive than cycling people in and out of emergency rooms, hospitals and jail. Success rate, 2008-2013: 59 percent (154 out of 262 permanently housed).
The Homeless Community Court dismisses nonviolent misdemeanor charges for people who complete rehab programs. Success rate, 2007-2013: 62 percent who entered the program graduated (156 people); 65 percent of graduates (102 people) placed in permanent housing.
Project Homecoming pays travel expenses to reunite homeless people with family members who agree to house and support them. The city follows up when the person arrives home and again in four months. Success rate, 2006-2013: 1,365 people housed (average cost: $204).
These are not Shriver’s only successes in Santa Monica, but I hope they begin to answer Mr. Di Costanzo’s question.