DOWNTOWN — There are fewer homeless people in Santa Monica than there were two years ago, but those who remain on the streets tend to have “complex, chronic disabilities” and have a disproportionate impact on the city’s resources and the community’s enjoyment of public spaces, according to a report released this week by City Hall.

Despite a new focus on serving Santa Monica’s “priority population” of homeless individuals, the report stated, most people who receive service from City Hall-funded agencies don’t fit into this category.

Homeless agencies supported by City Hall provided service to 7,036 individuals in 2009-2010.

The vast majority of those people, City Hall said, were not part of the “Santa Monica priority population,” which consists of those whose last permanent address was in Santa Monica; those who have been homeless in Santa Monica for five years or more; vulnerable members of the Santa Monica workforce; vulnerable individuals from the Service Registry; and high users of local police and fire services as identified by city staff. 

Last year, just 10 percent of those who received service from a City Hall-funded agency, or 720 homeless individuals, qualified as member of Santa Monica’s priority population.

Cutting down on the number of non-priority individuals who receive service from City Hall-backed agencies remains a goal, according to the report.

“Agencies have been required to transition those who do not meet [the priority population] threshold to services not supported by city or matching funds, or re-direct them to resources in their home community,” the report stated.

By most objective measures, though, the total impact of the homeless population has been declining, according to the report.

In 2010, the Human Services department tallied 742 people living on the streets in Santa Monica, a 25 percent decrease from 2007. City Hall will conduct the 2011 on Jan. 26.

The lower number of homeless individuals meant less frequent use of emergency and other services.

In the fiscal year that ended in June, there were 15 percent fewer arrests of homeless people compared with the prior year. The number of incidents requiring a response from paramedics involving a homeless individual was about even with the year before but was down 18 percent from 2007-2008. The City Attorney’s Office filed 2,165 cases against homeless people last fiscal year, a 12 percent decrease compared with the year before, according to the report.

It remains to be seen whether the experiences of Santa Monica residents are in-line with the City Hall’s statistics. This year, City Hall is planning to conduct a telephone survey of residents and businesses to gauge the community’s perception of the effectiveness of Santa Monica’s homeless initiatives.

City Hall contributed a total of $2.7 million to seven agencies that provide services to the homeless during the 2009-2010 fiscal year. 

According to the report, the agencies raised an additional $5.9 million from other public and private sources.

According to the report, Santa Monica’s homeless prevention program in the past 13 months provided $200,000 in financial assistance and case management services to help 162 Santa Monica residents retain housing and stay off the streets. The program has received $553,576 through the federal stimulus bill.

 

nickt@smdp.com