CITY HALL — A recent citywide homeless count revealed that the overall amount of sheltered and unsheltered homeless has increased in Santa Monica by just 1 percent in the past year, but people living on the streets and vehicles have increased by 20 percent and 27 percent, respectively, according to a report released by City Hall.
The total number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless in the city reached 780, up from 769 in 2012. The report also notes that the total number of unsheltered homeless reached 316, while the number of individuals sleeping in vehicles reached 57.
Without seeing the details of the report, John Maceri, executive director of OPCC, one of the primary homeless services providers in Santa Monica, believes that the economy may be one reason for the overall increase.
Senior administrative analyst for City Hall’s Human Services Division, Natasha Guest, agrees with Maceri’s assessment.
“Homelessness is a lagging indicator of a bad economy,” Guest said.
Even though the number of homeless people has increased, Sgt. Richard Lewis of the Santa Monica Police Department said that the agency will go on about their business as usual.
“We won’t be changing anything that we’re doing,” he said.
Lewis stressed that homelessness was not a crime, and that the SMPD would continue to work with the city’s homeless services providers moving forward.
The increase in individuals living in their cars can potentially be attributed to Santa Monica being fairly safer than other areas in Los Angeles County, which leads to people parking and sleeping in their cars at night, Guest said.
“As shelters become maximized, that’s when you see an increase on the street,” she said.
Both Maceri and Guest are hoping to continue working with the SMPD’s Homeless Liaison Program unit in an effort to decrease the number of homeless in Santa Monica. The unit is responsible for solving issues and concerns relating to the city’s homeless population, working with local initiatives such as Step Up and OPCC.
Los Angeles County conducts a homeless count every two years, covering almost 4,000 square miles and making it one of the largest counts of homeless individuals and families in the country.
Santa Monica does its own homeless count annually.
The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development requires communities receiving federal homelessness funds to conduct a count every two years. The Santa Monica Homeless Count took place on Jan. 30.