DOWNTOWN — The city of Santa Monica has housed 113 homeless people in the past year, making Los Angeles County one of the leading homeless housing providers in the U.S., according to a national report released Thursday.
The report was authored by 100,000 Homes for the Homeless Campaign, a movement to permanently house 100,000 at-risk homeless people by July 2013.
In its first year, the campaign has helped secure permanent housing for 10,244 homeless individuals. L.A. County accounted for nearly 30 percent of the homeless housings among large communities.
Traditionally, officials have worked with homeless people who seem easiest to help, said Jake Maguire, communications director for Community Solutions, the campaign’s parent organization.
“This often leaves the most at-risk people languishing on the street,” Maguire said.
If the prioritization of finding homeless people permanent residency is stratified so that the most at-risk are served first, then the ideal of no one living on the streets can become a reality, Maguire said.
“If you can get the hardest cases off the street it means you can help anyone down the road,” he said.
The campaign’s Los Angeles director, Beth Sandor, credits the program’s methodology with its success. Homes for the Homeless encourages communities to use a “vulnerability index,” a 35-question survey, to gauge how dire a person’s predicament is.
The index includes eight vulnerability factors that may catalyze early death among the homeless population. If the individual in question has been homeless for over six months, suffered from kidney or renal failure or liver disease, been hospitalized more than three times in the past year, or is over the age of 60, they are not only the most likely to die, but the most costly to their local communities.
The project is exclusively dedicated to finding housing for vulnerable individuals.
Volunteers with the campaign combed the streets between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., when homeless people living outside are most likely to be asleep, and approached them with the survey. (Homeless services providers at Santa Monica-based Step Up on Second and St. Joseph’s Center have worked closely with the volunteers at the campaign.)
Santa Monica did something similar in 2008. Since then, 432 homeless people have entered the Santa Monica service registry, a vast majority of which were vulnerable, according to Human Services administrator Setareh Yavari. Many of these people have since entered permanent housing.
The city of Santa Monica is in line with the housing-first model, the notion that supplying homeless people with the security of a place to stay is as important as rehabilitation for physical and mental illnesses, Yavari said.
After implementing the vulnerability index in 2008, Santa Monica experienced a noticeable reduction in its homeless population.
However, Yavari said the index did not completely account for the 19 percent decrease in the homeless population since 2009.
“We have a number of innovative projects and strong collaborations that provide a comprehensive continuum of care [to the homeless population],” she said.
These collaborations helped Angela, a long-time Santa Monican, get back on her feet after a family conflict pushed her out onto the streets for three years.
Angela was one of 18,000 homeless people surveyed for the 100,000 Homes Campaign.
“The police all knew me too well because I was always getting into trouble,” Angela said in the report.
Despite Angela’s trust issues, she approached Ocean Park Community Center (OPCC) officials for help. Last year, she moved into her first apartment in the city via a federal Shelter Plus Care voucher.
According to the report, Angela now spends much of her time tending to the flowers in her garden.
“They’re kind of like people. A little sunshine, a little love, and they’ll grow,” she said in the report.
Typically, 84 percent of homeless people who find permanent housing keep the roofs over their heads. The Santa Monica homeless population generally adheres to this national average, Yavari said.