On June 5, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. will host a town hall forum at the Santa Monica Public Library’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. to discuss homelessness. Facilitated by City Manager Rick Cole, the conversation aims to be educational and collaborative in nature.
Kathleen Rawson, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., explains that meeting is meant to share “what is being done to address the homeless crisis impacting cities across the state and the country, as well as provide useful information and tips on how to deal with issues related to the street population.”
Homelessness has become a dominant topic across the region. While homelessness decreased in Los Angeles County last year, falling about three percent, the number of homeless individuals in Santa Monica increased by about 4 percent in the same time.
Efforts to combat the crisis have increased with the passage of Measures H and HHH in 2016. The additional funds will increase spending on homelessness by $402 million this year including new tracking system, rapid re-housing programs for the recently homeless, outreach programs and prevention efforts.
Locally, Santa Monica has budgeted $1.4 million in one-time funds to support an action plan that will add dedicated staff, explore redeployment of public safety officials and create pilot programs to help prevent those most at-risk from becoming homeless.
Representatives from a variety of Santa Monica departments will be present to answer questions, including members from health and human services, the police department, the fire department, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM), and Santa Monica’s ambassador program.
Rawson cited DTSM’s recent 10-year assessment renewal process as a large motivating factor for this town hall. During the assessment renewal process, business owners voted to maintain the assessment district that funds DTSM. According to Rawson, DTSM stakeholders had discussed a perceived increase in the numbers of homeless individuals in the area, as well as an increase in both social and criminal offenses.
“There were a lot of conversations from property owners and businesses about the uptick in issues related to street populations,” Rawson said. “We realized that it was important for people to get on the same page and have not only a broad understanding of what actions and activities are taking place locally and how Downtown Santa Monica’s efforts complement them, but also talk about how the community itself can get involved in helping with this issue.”
Town hall attendees will have the chance to raise questions and receive guidance on how to manage specific scenarios.
Rawson anticipates a robust turnout of Santa Monica residents, property owners, business leaders, employees, and any other concerned parties or people with a vested interest in the subject. Rawson urges audience members to “come prepared to listen, take notes and ask questions.”
In preparation for the discussion, attendees are encouraged to review the Homelessness Toolkit, which can be downloaded here: www.weare.santamonica.gov. The Toolkit presents statistics about local and national homelessness (it reports that approximately 13,000 Los Angeles County residents lose their housing monthly) and offers the contact information for organizations that support homeless individuals.
“We want our stakeholders to be well informed and to understand the role we all play and to help make a significant difference in the effort to end homelessness,” Rawson explained. “We’re all touched by [homelessness] on a day-to-day basis, so we all have a role in helping with solutions.”