Santa Monica City Council Extends Local Emergency Order and Approves Strategic Investments to Address, Prevent Homelessness

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The following is a press release from Santa Monica City Government.

In response to City staff’s comprehensive annual update on addressing homelessness, the Santa Monica City Council on May 9, 2023, voted to extend the Local Emergency Order on Homelessness to May 31, 2024, and focus current and new investments to maintain and scale up initiatives to support vulnerable populations at-risk of or experiencing homelessness. These investments include using new resources from Measure CS, approved by voters in 2022, and, in the future, using resources from Measure GS, also approved by voters in 2022 but currently pending litigation as to its validity, to expand field-based services; create new deed-restricted affordable housing and expand homelessness prevention programs; establish a Homeless Strategic Plan as recommended by the City’s internal auditor; and create a new Housing and Human Services Department to lead implementation of the Strategic Plan, enabling the City to achieve Measure CS, GS, and audit report objectives more rapidly. 

“The Council took action Tuesday night to approve immediate and long-term strategies and investments to address the issue of homelessness,” said Mayor Gleam Davis. “We must continue to work in partnership with local jurisdictions and Los Angeles County to increase the supply of services and affordable housing for people at risk of and facing homelessness. 

The Council’s discussion also addressed a wide range of topics including strengthening the City’s coordination with regional partners, focusing on front-end prevention services, strategic interventions including immediate and coordinated response from emergency services, street engagement teams, shoring up substance abuse and mental health services, and increasing the supply of affordable and supportive housing. Council underscored building upon successful efforts that maximize local and regional resources that balance enforcement with compassionate engagement and increasing the supply of housing. Future investments from voter passed Measure CS and Measure GS will go toward addressing homelessness and a clean and safe Santa Monica, and funding homeless prevention and affordable housing.  

To watch the May 9, 2023, City Council meeting, click here. 

The Council’s action comes as City staff shared the results of the 2023 Homeless Count held in January. Santa Monica’s results show that 926 people experiencing homelessness were counted in Santa Monica, an overall increase of 15 percent from the 807 individuals counted during the City’s 2022 Homeless Count. Compared to last year’s results, 73 more individuals were counted on the street and in vehicles, and 46 more individuals were counted in the Shelter and Institutional count, which consists of emergency motels, shelters, hospitals and the Santa Monica jail. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) is expected to release the results of the 2023 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count between June and September of this year, which will provide context for Santa Monica’s results within the county.   

Santa Monica’s initiatives are organized under four pillars: 

  • Preventing Homelessness: Preventing housed Santa Monicans from becoming homeless and increasing affordable housing opportunities. 
  • Behavioral Health: Addressing the physical and behavioral health needs of vulnerable residents providing more access to healthcare. 
  • Safe Public Spaces: Continuously enhancing our approach to maintaining equitable access to safe, fun, and healthy open spaces. 
  • Regional Capacity: Strengthening regional capacity to address homelessness.  

Initiatives to Address Homelessness  

  • The Council adopted a Proclamation Declaring a Local Emergency Order on Homelessness on February 14, 2023. At the May 9, 2023, meeting, the Council extended the local emergency until May 31, 2024, given the 2023 Point-in-Time Count results and to maintain and scale up the interventions detailed below. 
  • The City’s approach to addressing homelessness will now be leveraged by two new funding streams – Measure CS and Measure GS, approved by voters in November 2022. Measure CS dollars will be used to expand field-based services. Measure GS will infuse new revenues into the City’s Housing Trust Fund to create new deed-restricted affordable housing and expand homelessness prevention programs.  
  • At the March 11, 2023, retreat, the Council reaffirmed addressing homelessness as a top priority and approved an organizational realignment to create a Housing and Human Services Department. The new department would become the organizational lead for homelessness services and programs. This would enable the City to rapidly implement Measures CS and GS programs, the objectives of a recent study completed by the City’s auditor, Moss Adams, and provide core focus and leadership on administering a comprehensive array of housing, educational, and social services programs in addition to investments to support vulnerable populations. 
  • Work has been initiated on a Homelessness Strategic Plan, which will incorporate and build on the findings of the Moss Adams Report issued in November 2022. Grounded upon the City’s Four Pillar approach, the Homelessness Strategic Plan will set clear policy direction, promote alignment, support regional efforts, and focus on measurable objectives, all towards the goal of preventing and addressing homelessness in Santa Monica.  
  • In 2022, the Council supported the redesign of the existing SAMOSHEL interim housing program to accommodate 24/7 intakes for City referrals. This limited scope program redesign will begin later in 2023 and will provide additional options for after-hours intake and facilitate direct referrals by City entities (including SMPD) for people experiencing homelessness and non-urgent behavioral health issues.  
  • The City has executed an agreement with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (DMH) to implement a pilot program to launch a therapeutic transport van, staffed with DMH personnel in the City of Santa Monica. DMH’s Therapeutic Transport Program will co-respond to incoming emergency calls related to, or presumed to involve, non-combative, medically stable individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. The program also offers a supportive and expedited alternative to the transportation needs of acute mentally ill clients requiring additional care. The program is designed to relieve first responder resources to focus on other health and safety priorities. The City has committed $464,000 to fund the program with the objective of implementing 24/7 DMH Team coverage. 
  • The City modified its municipal code in 2022 to expand the prohibition against sitting or lying in doorways at night to include along major boulevards outside of the downtown area such as Broadway, Colorado, Lincoln, Pico, Santa Monica, and Wilshire. This change affords additional tools to address quality of life concerns.   
  • A behavioral health center feasibility study is in progress to help meet behavioral health needs of housed and unhoused residents in Santa Monica. $10 million from the 2022 development agreement with Providence Saint John’s is available and $1.5 million in federal and another $1.5 million in state funding has been secured to support implementation. The public is invited to attend community listening sessions on May 17 from 5-7 p.m. at the Annenberg Community Beach House; May 18 from 12-2 p.m. at the Santa Monica Public Library Main Branch, Multi-Purpose Room; and May 18 from 6-9 p.m. at Virginia Avenue Park, Thelma Terry Room.  

Recent Accomplishments in Addressing Homelessness in Santa Monica 

  • Opened three new affordable senior housing developments in 2021 and 2022 (Greenway Meadows, Pacific Landing, Magnolia Villas), two new developments are coming online in 2023 (Las Flores, 1819 Pico Boulevard).  
  • Multi-disciplinary outreach teams are a proven strategy to address homelessness. These teams are uniquely equipped to provide traditionally clinical-based services directly into the community:
    • One Homeless Multidisciplinary Street Team (HMST), operated by The People Concern, works with chronically homeless individuals identified as the highest utilizers of local police and fire services. HMST is staffed by licensed mental health professionals, housing case managers, substance-use specialists, licensed medical providers, psychiatrists, and a peer with lived experience. 
    • In addition to the HMST, the City also funds two C3 (“City + County + Community”) Teams. Staffed similarly to HMST, C3 teams are deployed proactively to the areas of the city with the highest concentration of unsheltered homelessness. One C3 team serves the Downtown Santa Monica area (including Tongva, Palisades and Reed parks) and the second focuses on the South Beach (including the Pier, beach parking lots, and adjacent parks). 
    • In 2022, these teams collectively made 10,454 contacts with people experiencing homelessness, provided 833 clients with direct medical or psychiatric services, and placed 59 clients into interim or permanent housing. The Council has supported the continuation of this work, along with the addition of a third outreach team that will allow coverage of all areas of the city to start in FY 2023-24. The Emergency Order will allow the City to more efficiently execute agreements to continue and expand these services beyond the Downtown and Beach areas. 
  • Moss Adams’ study identified increasing the supply of affordable housing and permanent supportive housing as the most critical components to homelessness prevention and resolution.
    • Over 100 new federal Emergency Housing Vouchers (EHV) were secured last year, and participants began moving into their own apartments in February 2022. To date, 45 people have ended their experience of homelessness in Santa Monica by securing homes not only in Santa Monica but in communities throughout the County and City of Los Angeles including San Pedro and Ladera Heights. 
    • The City helped 450 Santa Monica residents access legal services to stay housed through ongoing and new programs, with plans to extend the Right to Counsel and Eviction Prevention programs through June 2027. 
    • In April 2019, the Council approved the development of affordable housing at 1318 Fourth St. This will bring over 100 new units of permanent supportive and affordable housing online.  

For more information about Santa Monica’s comprehensive response to homelessness and additional background on homeless count results, review Santa Monica Releases 2023 Homeless Count Results press release.

Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.

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