More than 300 volunteers will walk down every street in Santa Monica Wednesday night to count the city’s homeless population.
Santa Monica joins communities across the county in conducting the annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. Registered volunteers gather at St. Monica Catholic Community Grand Pavilion for a kick-off event and training at 10:30 p.m. before dispersing in teams to cover every area of the city by foot and by car to conduct a visual count of people sleeping in public spaces, returning to the church at 2:30 a.m. This year, volunteers are being asked to bring toiletries and food to donate to local agencies who will distribute them to people on the street.
At the same time, homeless individuals will be counted in shelters, transitional programs, local area hospitals and other overnight facilities.
The count helps the City of Santa Monica and the county plan new ways to address homelessness and measure the effectiveness of existing strategies. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development tracks the results to determine federal funding for homelessness programs.
Last year’s count tallied 957 homeless individuals, a four percent increase in Santa Monica’s homeless population. Homelessness dropped four percent countywide.
The four percent increase included an 11 percent increase in individuals sleeping on Santa Monica streets and a nine percent decrease in people sleeping in shelters and other institutions.
The 2018 count marked the end of the sudden influx of homeless people across the region the previous year. Consistent with the rest of the county, the number of people sleeping on the streets in Santa Monica jumped 39 percent in 2017 alone and the overall homeless population increased by 26 percent.
The City of Santa Monica authorized a $1.4 million plan to address the crisis in October 2017, which include hiring outreach workers, combatting evictions and hiring a senior advisor on homelessness, Alisa Orduña, to work with county and regional partners.
The City launched its main outreach team last April. The C3 team deploys a substance disorder clinician, a psychiatrist and a part-time physician to help individuals in parks and the downtown area. It also hired a social worker to work in Santa Monica’s libraries and trained police officers to engage with homeless individuals.
Local officials volunteering Wednesday night include City Council, City Manager Rick Cole, Assemblymember Richard Bloom and Police Chief Cynthia Renaud.