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Report: Homelessness down across the board in Santa Monica

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Homelessness is down 5 percent in the city by the sea, rebounding after two years of increases, according to City Hall’s annual homeless count.

According to a recent article in the Santa Monica Daily Press, there were 742 homeless individuals counted in Santa Monica on the night of Jan. 29, the same amount counted back in 2010.

Volunteers counted 780 homeless people last year and, according to the Daily Press article, the street count was down 9 percent, declining to 346 from 380 last year.

In downtown Santa Monica the numbers were down significantly: with a 40 percent drop from 141 to 86 this year, the article stated.

Officials said no families were found on the street.

Homeless totals were up in the 2012 and 2013 counts, partially a result of a struggling economy, officials said. This year’s drop brings the totals closer to where they were in 2010 and 2011.

John Maceri, executive director of the Santa Monica-based homeless services provider OPCC (formerly the Ocean Park Community Center), was encouraged by the results.

“I thought the results would be down this year and they are,” he said. “That’s important, especially when you see what’s happening across L.A. County.”

According to an August report from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, homelessness rose nearly 2 percent in the county in 2013. Still, Maceri said he wasn’t surprised by Santa Monica’s improvement.

“I didn’t expect there to be a precipitous drop,” Maceri said, “because homelessness is going up in other parts of the county, but I thought the numbers would come in slightly less than where we had been.”

Maceri gives credit to several groups he says are responsible for the drop in the downtown area of Santa Monica.
The downtown Ambassadors program has helped, he said, as has communication between local businesses, downtown Santa Monica Inc., and local service providers. Maceri said he’s seen improvements in Palisades Park and along the Third Street Promenade.

“I think there’s been a lot of effort working on the chronic homeless initiatives that all the providers have been working on with (City Hall),” he said. “We’ve really looked at addressing people who have been on the streets the longest and kind of looking at the anchors in the area, and I think that has helped.”

According to the report in the Santa Monica Daily Press, city officials also applaud the Police Department’s Homeless Liaison Program (HLP).

“With patrol providing additional support, the police department was able to dedicate HLP Team resources to identify the most chronic and long-term homeless individuals in the downtown area and link them to housing and services,” city officials said in the report.

More than 250 community volunteers covered 226 linear miles, every street in the city, during the count that has been an annual event since 2010.

While Maceri wants to drop all of the numbers, he really wants to see the street numbers diminished.

“The shelter count isn’t going to dramatically move from year to year unless we actually lose beds, which I hope doesn’t happen,” he said. “I’m particularly interested in moving the needle on the street count.”

As is the case each year, there is still more work to be done, Maceri said.

“When we go out and don’t find anyone on the streets, that will be fantastic. Clearly, we’re not there yet.”