Courtesy Photo

The City of Santa Monica conducted its annual Homeless Count on the night of January 27, 2016. The results were presented at the City Council meeting on March 1st. Homeless counts are mandated every two years by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Santa Monica counts annually to rapidly identify and respond to changing population trends. To conduct the Count, over 250 community volunteers and City staff covered each street in Santa Monica – a total of 226 linear miles – to tally homeless individuals sleeping outdoors, as well as in cars, RVs, and tents. Homeless persons in shelters, jails and hospitals were also counted at each facility. The Count is conducted overnight to better identify individuals sleeping in the City, and represents the number of people identified as experiencing homelessness on a single night. The Count is not a cumulative number of people who may experience homelessness throughout the year, nor does it accurately represent the number of homeless people who may be present in the City during daytime hours, but sleep elsewhere.

The point-in-time homeless count total is 728 individuals, a decrease from 738 (1%) in 2015.

 The street count is 416, an increase from 402 (3%) in 2015.

 Within the street count, individuals sleeping in vehicles/encampments remained equal to number found in 2015, with 73 counted.

 Shelter and institution population is 312, a decrease from 336 (7%) in 2015.

While the total number of homeless individuals identified in the count continues to incrementally decline, the number of unsheltered individuals has been slowly increasing. This is reflective of the increasing numbers across LA County, where, between 2009 and 2015, homelessness overall has increased by 15%, with the number of unsheltered individuals increasing by 23%. The street count did not identify any unsheltered families or minors. The results of Santa Monica’s count will be further informed by the results of the County-wide counts conducted during the last week of January. Those results are scheduled to be released later this year by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

This year, in addition to counting individuals, City staff and volunteers conducted brief surveys of unsheltered individuals over three nights in several locations including downtown, Palisades Park and the beach. The self-reported responses provided by 133 unduplicated individuals found that only 3% of individuals have spent the entirety of their homeless experience in Santa Monica, while 52% report arriving in town from elsewhere in LA County and 29% came to Santa Monica from out of state. Data from the surveys also supports anecdotal reports from service providers and first responders that the population is shifting from individuals that are long-term homeless in Santa Monica to a much more transitory population, as 25% of individuals reported being in Santa Monica less than one month, and an additional 30% reported being in the City between one and 12 months. Their relatively short stay in Santa Monica is contrasted by the length of their homeless experience overall, with 62% of respondents reporting to be homeless for 1 year or more, nearly half of whom reported being homeless for five years or more. This increasingly transitory population and the extended chronicity of their homeless experience may also be contributing to a reduction in the use of local shelters, which is reflected in the steady decline in the number of individuals in shelters since 2013.

The City’s response to homelessness continues to be guided by the Action Plan to Address Homelessness, implemented by the City in 2008, which has helped to maintain reductions in homelessness achieved in 2010 while homelessness has increased across the region. The City Council affirmed their commitment to this issue by identifying homelessness as one of the five Council adopted strategic goals. An interdepartmental work group will be re-evaluating The Action Plan for update which will include new approaches to address the changing homeless population, as identified in the data from Homeless Count and surveys. City Council has already committed additional resources to help jump-start these new strategies, including funding for a medical and behavioral health interdisciplinary street-based treatment team and resources to help prevent vulnerable older adults from becoming homeless through eviction intervention. The City will also reinforce the unique interdepartmental coordination amongst Community and Cultural Services, Santa Monica Police Department, Santa Monica Fire Department, City Attorney’s Office and Housing and Economic Development, in partnership with local social service agencies that continues to connect people from the streets into services and housing.

More information about the event and the City’s homeless initiatives:

– Submitted by Constance Farrell, Public Information Coordinator, City of Santa Monica