DOWNTOWN — Nearly $75 million is going to 225 regional programs that help homeless people and families deal with challenges such as mental illness, disabilities and domestic violence.

The much needed cash is coming from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and will be distributed to local agencies like OPCC and St. Joseph Center by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).

Of that money, roughly $11.8 million will fund 22 programs in Service Planning Area 5, which covers the Westside, including Santa Monica. Eleven of those programs include permanent housing, nine cover transitional housing and eight cover supplemental services, according to a spokesman from LAHSA.

The funding is roughly the same as what was awarded last year when almost 4,000 homeless individuals were served through permanent supportive-housing programs. Just over 3,500 of them, or almost 90 percent, became stably housed, said Michael Arnold, LAHSA’s executive director.

“With this award, we can continue providing the vitally needed housing assistance and accompanying supportive services to those experiencing homelessness in the city and county of Los Angeles,” Arnold said Thursday. “Programs targeting our special needs populations such as the chronically homeless, veterans and families are our top priority; we are committed to moving these vulnerable groups into more stable housing and living conditions as quickly as possible.”

HUD’s Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Program is an annual national competition for funding that supports homeless housing and service programs under the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Program. It focuses on decreasing and bringing an end to homelessness across regional and local jurisdictions. LAHSA is the lead agency for the county.

This year, LAHSA requested nearly $14 million for new projects and HUD is expected to announce those awards in the spring of 2012.

“This is good news,” said OPCC’s John Maceri. “It doesn’t provide all the funding, but a significant portion for residential and outreach services that are provided here in Santa Monica.”

Maceri expects to receive roughly the same amount of funding from LAHSA in the new year, “which is good news at a time when you are seeing a lot of cuts elsewhere.”

Maceri said donations to OPCC are down.

“People are still giving, but they are not giving as much,” he added. “It’s been a tight year, but I’m guardedly optimistic.”

Va Lecia Adams, Ph.D., director of St. Joseph Center in Venice, said demand for services is great, particularly at the food pantry. Knowing that steady funding is on its way is “always a relief.”

“Dollars are always limited so to have this commitment helps,” she said.

City Hall will be conducting its annual homeless count Jan. 25. To volunteer, send an e-mail to humanservices@smgov.net or call (310) 458-8701.

The 2011 count found no change in the number of homeless individuals — 740 — living in Santa Monica from the previous year. However, the two-year comparison from 2009-2011 shows a 19 percent reduction in homelessness, according to city staff.

With unemployment in California sitting at 11.3 percent, Maceri and others are worried more people are sleeping on Santa Monica’s streets.

To learn more about Santa Monica’s efforts to end homelessness, visit www.smgov.net/portals/homelessness/

kevinh@smdp.com

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