This summer was a busy one for Santa Monica’s Community Response Unit (CRU), which was launched by the Santa Monica Fire Department in September 2021 as a new type of unit to respond to 911 calls from vulnerable individuals and help connect them with services.
The CRU responded to 443 emergency calls for service from the beginning of July to the end of September, 302 involved individuals experiencing homelessness, up significantly from the 88 calls that came in between April and June.
This information is part of a new report the City released this week detailing efforts to address homelessness during the first quarter of the 2022-23 fiscal year (July 1 – Sept. 30). City Council receives quarterly updates on the City’s progress on the issue.
The report, sent out by City Manager David White and prepared by Assistant Director of Community Services Danielle Noble, notes the effects of the end of COVID-era protections on renters and the increased risk of housing loss.
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“As emergency orders sunset and eviction moratoriums lift, the risk of an immense wave of renters losing their housing continues to grow,” it reads.
The report goes on to outline several programs Council approved to address the issue including the use of federal HOME-ARP funding for homelessness prevention and partnerships with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and WISE and Healthy Aging.
In the last quarter, 12 households received short-term assistance and 21 seniors received services to prevent eviction during the quarter. In addition, 66 of a total of 82 applicants were issued vouchers through the Emergency Housing Voucher program and 14 moved into apartments.
Those helped include a 63-year-old Santa Monica resident who lost her job during the pandemic and became unable to pay rent, but the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles was able to provide a voucher through the Santa Monica Housing Authority to subsidize her rent and remain housed.
The report also highlights several other initiatives and projects utilizing the City’s “four pillars framework” to address the homelessness crisis by focusing on housing and prevention, behavioral health, maintaining clean and safe open spaces, and strengthening the regional capacity to address homelessness.
Among these projects are a supportive housing development capable of taking in 58 individuals experiencing homelessness at 1413 Michigan Avenue, which is currently under construction, and a proposal for an affordable housing development at 1318 4th Street, the former site of Parking Structure 3.
Other efforts include outreach and family unification work in the city in partnership with West Coast Care to connect homeless individuals with relatives and friends; public facility changes including public bathroom improvements; and removal of features such as benches in Palisades Park and the re-landscaping of several areas that “have invited vandalism, antisocial behavior and concerns from park users.”
On the regional level, the City of Santa Monica is part of the Westside Cities Council of Governments Homelessness Working Group, which also includes Beverly Hills, Culver City and West Hollywood, among others. The goal of the group, as stated in the report, is to “address homelessness from a subregional perspective through high-impact solutions.” The coalition adopted a Subregional Homelessness Strategic Work Plan in April 2022 with a “current focus on coordinating local and regional behavioral health interventions.”