When it comes to helping the homeless, Santa Monica is making great strides. Using a multi-pronged approach with an emphasis on housing the most vulnerable and chronically homeless first, City Hall, with the help of social service providers, volunteers, residents, cops and the business community, have been able to reduce the homeless population in Santa Monica by 8 percent, according to a recent survey, the results of which were released Monday.
The survey, which was conducted in January, showed that there are a total of 915 people sleeping in shelters or on the streets of Santa Monica. This is down from an estimated 999 in 2007, and a far cry from the thousands reported in previous estimates.
The Daily Press supports efforts made by City Hall to address this serious problem, which could only get worse if the economy doesn’t rebound. The Homeless Liaison Program run by the Santa Monica Police Department is innovative. The housing-first model helps prevent people from falling through the cracks, allowing them to stabilize and seek treatment or access services. The homeless court gives people a fresh start by clearing minor offenses, such as illegal camping, and linking people to services. Identifying the most vulnerable allows us to better focus our limited resources.
It is a tough job working with the homeless, many of whom are mentally ill, drug and alcohol addicted, or both. The Daily Press commends those who are involved in this effort, even if we do not always agree with City Hall. The dedication to this issue, being leaders in the movement by exhibiting compassion and critical thinking, has produced results that are often hard to see given that homelessness has no boundaries.
That said, numbers can be deceiving. While the results of the survey show the numbers decreasing, we have to remember that many of our homeless have found temporary shelter in West L.A. and Culver City as part of the Winter Shelter Program. When this program ends next month, how many of those folks will be back on the streets in Santa Monica? That 8 percent drop could be more like 5 percent or lower. So while it is good to celebrate the success, we must not get complacent. We must continue working toward a regional solution, putting pressure on other cities to get involved.
When the Daily Press made endorsements for the 2006 City Council race, we called Gleam Davis a “wild card.” We felt that the Harvard Law School grad’s intelligence and commitment to the community, particularly in the area of education, made her a stellar candidate, but perhaps one who needed more seasoning in other areas, particularly planning and land use. We suggested she serve on a city commission to prove that she was more than an education candidate. Having served on the Planning Commission following her failed campaign, Davis proved she is committed and will put in the hours to make sound decisions. She does care about the future of Santa Monica, preserving neighborhoods for future generations. Davis will make a good council member.
However, there is some concern that Santa Monicans For Renters’ Rights has too much control now that Davis, a co-chair of the ruling political party, is on the council, giving SMRR a 5-2 majority. We don’t like any group to have that much control, however, that is how the game is played. Those upset with SMRR’s dominance need to walk the walk, form an opposition and do the leg work to compete. SMRR knows how to organize and you can’t fault them for that. For those upset, there’s always 2010.