There were more homeless people counted on the street and in cars or encampments at last month’s annual Homeless Count than in the year prior.
The street count rose 16 percent while the overall count stayed almost exactly the same, according to the data, released by City Hall’s Human Services Division on Monday.
The 2015 count found 402 people living on the street compared to 346 in January of 2014.
“Despite this increase, street homelessness is down 16 (percent) from the baseline set by the 2009 Count of 480 unsheltered individuals,” the Human Services Division said in a release.
It was the sixth year of the count, which sends hundreds of volunteers out onto the streets of Santa Monica to surreptitiously count the city’s most vulnerable population.
The count helps provide scope to the homeless problem and arms City Hall with numbers that can be used to receive funding from the federal government for social services.
The overall count was stagnant, dropping from 742 individuals to 738.
The decrease comes from a 15 percent drop in homeless individuals who are in shelters or institutions, from 396 last year to 336 this year.
Among the homeless counted on the street, the number that were in cars and encampments jumped from 57 to 73.
“While the count methodology does not provide any identifying or demographic information about the people counted, anecdotal reports from service providers and first responders suggest that the population is shifting from individuals that are long-term homeless in Santa Monica to a much more transitory population, newly arrived and quick to move on,” the report said.
John Maceri, executive director of the OPCC, a nonprofit social services agency, concurred with this assessment.
“Part of that is that I just think the continued movement of redevelopment in what’s going on in parts of the county with either Downtown L.A., with Hollywood,” he said. “I live in the San Fernando Valley and I’m seeing more homeless people there as well, so I think people are moving around the county more.”
Even the construction of the incoming Expo Light Rail on Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica could be having impacts, he said.
“I think that has sort of contributed to more general movement because along the Colorado corridor there aren’t as many place for people to be for very long periods of time,” Maceri said.
Maceri is waiting for the release of the county-wide Homeless Count to put Santa Monica’s numbers in context.
“I can’t say I was shocked,” he said of Santa Monica’s results. “I’ve been hearing anecdotally from colleagues in other parts of the county that the street numbers seem to be up. We’ll see if that’s true or not.”
The conditions on the night of the count itself, he said, might have had impacts on the numbers, he said.
“It was a very warm night the night of the count,” Maceri said. “There was a lot more mobility. I know certainly in the tract that we were counting, Downtown, people seemed to be moving around a lot more. That may have had something to with it.”
The shelter count was affected by planned renovations of two housing programs, city officials said.
“Those beds were closed gradually over time, as participants left the program to other housing options,” they said in a release. “There is no direct correlation between the reduction of beds and the increase in individuals found on the street.”
The Human Services Division vowed to continue to work with city departments and partners in surrounding cities to address the ever-changing needs of the homeless population.
“The good news is that the numbers didn’t skyrocket overall,” Maceri said. “I’m pleased about that.”