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The City Council will learn the scope of the current homeless crisis Tuesday when City Manager Rick Cole reveals the numbers from this year’s January homeless tally during their first meeting in March.

The numbers will give the Council a chance to review the City’s approach to helping homeless individuals get off the streets by helping them connect to local services. There are now a number of outreach teams already working in the city limits, including a specialized police unit and a multi-disciplinary team that includes a social worker.

A new public/private partnership to brainstorm new ways to tackle the homeless crisis also gets off the ground this week. The City’s new Homeless Steering Committee (SMHSC) will meet for the first time Wednesday, March 7 at 6 p.m. at Roosevelt Elementary Auditorium at 801 Montana Avenue. The committee is a gathering of more than 50 public and private partners from local businesses, churches, service providers and elected officials to develop strategies to address homelessness.

The SMHSC will focus on advocacy for housing, mental health and employment opportunities for the homeless, public safety, preserving public and open spaces and volunteerism. The meeting is open to the public and those interested in joining can contact humanservices.mailbox@smgov.net.

The 2017 homeless count found more people living on the streets than at any time since the City started conducting yearly counts in 2009. The number of people sleeping unhoused and outside shelters leaped 39 percent from 416 to 581 last year.

Over the same time, the County of Los Angeles saw a 23 percent increase in homelessness with 58,000 sleeping on the streets across the region. It is estimated that 30 percent of the homeless suffer from some form of mental illness.

In response to the crisis, the Santa Monica hired a Senior Advisor on Homelessness, Alisa Orduna, to coordinate efforts across departments. She started her new role in February. The City will soon issue a Request for Proposal to hire a full-time social worker for Santa Monica’s Main Library. Every police officer has undergone new training on how to engage with homeless residents and those with mental illness.

There are also a number of initiatives that tackle housing, including a pilot program to help rent burdened seniors stay in their homes.

Two major spending initiatives approved by Los Angeles County taxpayers also promise to help the crisis, although their benefits will be spread throughout the region. Measure GS/GSH will finance more affordable housing through a $1.1 billion bond. It’s estimated an approved Measure H sales tax increase will yield an additional $350 million per year for countywide homeless services.

The City Council will meet tonight, Tuesday, March 6, at 5:30 p.m. inside City Hall Council Chambers 1685 Main Street. The Council will enter closed session for legal discussions before moving on to public items.

 

kate@www.smdp.com

 

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press