Santa Monica’s largest homeless shelter will be renovated as the city considers replacing the facility that was built as a temporary structure 25 years ago.

City Council will vote Tuesday on a $669,000 renovation of Samoshel, an aging structure constructed as an oversized tent that sleeps 70 people and contains restrooms, showers, a kitchen and an HVAC system. Originally run by the Salvation Army, it has been operated by The People Concern since 2005. The city funds 60% of its budget.

Santa Monica has decided to renovate and eventually replace the shelter as it grapples with a 33 percent increase in homelessness over the past five years in the context of a regional housing crisis. But population growth is not the only reason why Samoshel needs to be renovated and eventually replaced.

John Maceri, executive director of The People Concern, said the shelter was designed for people who were fairly high-functioning. Most of them were dealing with mental illness or alcoholism, but could usually get sober, go back to work and rent an apartment without subsidies. About 20% had disabilities and needed lifelong support.

Today, Maceri said 90% of Samoshel clients need additional support, mainly because more have disabilities and housing has become far more difficult to find and afford in Los Angeles. Although The People Concern has more housing vouchers than ever, people stay longer in Samoshel because there aren’t enough apartments to meet demand.

Samoshel has changed over the past quarter-century to accommodate the growing number of residents with disabilities, Maceri said. For example, the shelter started off with bunk bed dormitories, but that setup became infeasible because many residents couldn’t get onto top bunks.

Maceri said the new upgrades to Samoshel’s restrooms and showers will make them more accessible for people with disabilities.

Elsewhere in the shelter, the commercial kitchen will get new cooking and food storage equipment, HVAC, lighting and fire sprinkler systems would all be upgraded and the facility would be outfitted with electronic doors and better lockers.

The awning that covers the tent-like frame of the structure and the outside gate will also be refurbished.

Maceri said the renovations will ensure Samoshel can remain in operation until the city builds a new facility, which will take about five years. The city will have to find a new site and decide whether to include permanent supportive housing or a behavioral health center in the project, all while soliciting community input at every step of the process.

“The renovations are really about keeping the facility functioning for a few more years,” he said. “The rebuild isn’t going to happen quickly.”

City Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. June 11 in City Hall, 1685 Main St.

madeleine@smdp.com

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