The results are in and the winner is … ? Of course, I’m talking about the annual homeless count results. The good news is that our homeless population seems to have stabilized over the last six years.
The 2015 count was conducted the night of January 28. Hundreds of volunteers fanned out over Santa Monica counting people sleeping or camped on public streets, in parks, on the beach, in vehicles and on private property. Those figures were added to counts of homeless people in shelters, medical and other institutional facilities to obtain a complete tally.
Released last Monday, the 2015 count found 738 homeless people in Santa Monica as opposed to 742 in 2014. In 2013, 780 individuals were counted, 769 individuals were counted in 2012, 740 in 2011, 742 in 2010 and 915 in 2009.
This year the “on-the-streets” count rose 16 percent with 402 people counted on the street compared to 346 counted in January, 2014. However, the sheltered population dropped 15 percent with 336 people counted in shelters this year while 396 individuals were sheltered during 2014’s count.
One of the problems with the annual count is that volunteers don’t make contact with the people they encounter. On the street, they literally count lumps under blankets and persons sitting on benches. Counters are advised not to disturb persons they see. So information like: Where are you from? How long have you been in Santa Monica? Are you homeless? isn’t obtained.
Statistics regarding age, sex and ethnicity data isn’t collected either. Counters don’t know whether an individual napping on a bus bench is homeless or waiting for a late-night Metrobus.
People often come here from back East or even from foreign countries and sleep on the sand at night even though it’s illegal on Santa Monica’s beaches. Is the person asleep near a lifeguard tower or under the Santa Monica Pier a local chronic homeless person, a (housed) inebriate who’s passed out, a tourist from Cincinnati or a backpacker from France? Who knows?
A question involves the number of Santa Monica’s homeless who may be in the closest winter shelter — the 160 bed shelter in the West L.A. Armory at the Veteran’s Administration. Officers from the Santa Monica Police Department’s Homeless Liaison Team (HLP) pass out flyers and urge the homeless to go to the cold weather shelter which takes in persons on a per-night basis throughout the winter months. It’s unknown exactly how many daytime homeless in Santa Monica were in West L.A., January 28.
HLP Team officers also gather information that helps guide them and City Hall’s Human Services staff in developing strategies for directing persons with needs to programs and services, including housing, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, job training, mental health programs, etc.
Homeless people come and go. Some are here for a night or for years. The Santa Monica Police Department’s civilian outreach service West Coast Care has been responsible for sending literally thousands of homeless individuals all around the country to family and friends over the last eight years. In conjunction with the Human Services Division, “Project Homecoming” has been phenomenally successful with a very low recidivism rate and 76 percent of its participants still housed according to their six-month follow-ups.
Still, for everyone who leaves, another comes in. It would appear that the count, as raw as the data may be, shows that the array of available services isn’t a magnet attracting more people than can be currently handled. This is also good news.
While we’d all like to see the raw numbers dwindle to just a few, given the area and the region, perhaps stability is the best we can achieve under the city’s present political structure.
City water: a golden stream?
City Council approved a compromise between City Hall staff who wanted a 78 percent water rate increase (on top of a mandatory 20 percent water use cutback) and residents opposed to the increase. The compromise was a 53.9 percent water rate increase over five years.
City officials said that council’s action will keep the Water Fund in the black and allow for some capital improvement projects to the city’s aging water infrastructure.
City Hall is sitting on $30-million in Housing Trust Funds — some or all of those monies could have been transferred to the Water Fund to make the improvements to the city’s water delivery system thereby avoiding any (or establishing more modest) rate increases. However, resident needs don’t mean much to this City Council.
Their top priority is subsidized public housing for out-of-towners. In other words, their social agenda is more important than our safe drinking water — a situation that’s ghastly and deplorable.
When are voters going to realize that the obsessive pursuit of socialistic public housing policies is screwing all of us by either unjustifiably raising taxes or risking the city’s ability to deliver basic services to its citizenry at a reasonable price?
According to LA.Curbed.com (Tuesday, Feb. 24), the most expensive rentals in the Los Angeles area are right here. Quoting a study by Zumper, the online apartment rental website, the most expensive median rent for a one bedroom apartment in January was a staggering $2,800/month in Santa Monica. Marina Del Rey came in second at $2,600.
Bel Air/Beverly Crest was $2,500, Venice’s one bedroom median was $2,450, Beverly Hills and Westwood medians were both $2,200. Downtown L.A was $2,390. Brentwood came in at a paltry $1,930 while Mar Vista was $1,610. Hollywood was $1,350 while West Hollywood’s median was $1,950.
Bill Bauer can be reached at email@example.com.