Photo by Matthew Hall

The City of Santa Monica and local homeless service provider The People Concern are bracing for a predicted rise in homelessness as the City’s eviction moratorium is set to expire next month. In response, the City has dedicated funds for its Rental Relief Program and is continuing its partnership with the People Concern to provide a wide range of homeless intervention and housing services.

“I think homelessness is going to increase across the county generally and that includes in Santa Monica. We have a moratorium on evictions and on rent payments, but at some point those are going to be lifted,” said John Maceri, CEO of The People Concern. “A lot of people are unemployed right now, at some point there is going to be an adjustment. I think at that point we are going to see more people who have not historically been homeless losing their housing.”

While moratoriums are scheduled to expire next month, this does not mean local residents will be kicked to the curb come September 30. Residents have 12 months after the moratorium expires to pay back owed rents. However, with no vaccine on the horizon, a stagnant economy, and decreasing unemployment benefits, many tenants are hesitant to remain in housing they can no longer afford knowing they will eventually be liable for paying their debt.

“As a local community we know this is an issue and something we want to get ahead on and that’s why when the council adopted the next fiscal year’s budget they put in place the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, to help people whose housing becomes vulnerable as a result of COVID-19,” said Constance Farrell, the City’s Public Information Officer. “We want to take proactive approaches to make sure our residents don’t lose their housing.”

Once the moratorium expires, the City’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program will kick in and provide eligible applicants with up to three months of rental assistance totaling a maximum of $5000. The goal of the program is help people stay in their homes after the moratorium is lifted without accruing additional debt.

The application window for Santa Monica’s program has closed but today is the last day residents can apply for the L.A. County Rent Relief Program at https://211la.org/lacounty/rentrelief. Renters at 30% of the median income can receive up to $10,000 and renters at 50% of the median income can receive up to $7,500. Relief from Santa Monica and the County cannot be applied to rent in the same months, although residents can receive funds from both programs and apply them to separate months.

While Santa Monica has a strong record of homeless services, it is not immune to general trends of increased homelessness seen across LA, and is working with The People Concern to adapt its homeless services in response to the pandemic.

“We are providing all of the same kinds of services, but we have had to decompress the number of people in our interim housing sites to comply with the public health orders,” said Maceri. Some of these adaptations include, “social distancing, reconfiguring the use of common space, staggering meals in shifts, a lot more infection control procedures, and asking residents to monitor their activities in terms of coming and going to minimize community spread.”

For more information on Santa Monica’s homeless services see https://www.weare.santamonica.gov/addressing-homelessness

clara@smdp.com