Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica's Homeless Population Declines|
By Jorge Casuso
March 2, 2016 -- For the third year in a row, Santa Monica's overall homeless population including those who live in shelters, has decreased, but more individuals are living in the streets, acccording to Santa Monica’s 2016 Homeless Count released Tuesday night.
The count, which was taken on the night of January 27, found 728 individuals living on the streets, in shelters and in institutions in the beach city, down from 738 the previous year. But the count also showed an increase in the number of individuals living on the street -- from 402 in 2015 to 416 this year.
Of those living on the street, the vast majority -- 343 -- had no shelter of any kind, while 73 lived in vehicles or encampments, the same number as last year. The street count did not identify any unsheltered families or minors.
"While the total number of homeless individuals identified in the count continues to incrementally decline, the number of unsheltered individuals has been slowly increasing," City officials said. "This is reflective of the increasing numbers across LA County."
According to the County Homeless Count, the overall homeless population has increased by 15 percent between 2009 and 2015, with the number of unsheltered individuals increasing by 23 percent, officials said.
Of those living in shelers or insitutions, 304 lived in shelters or in motels on an emmergency basis, down from 329 last year; four were hospitalized, and four jailed.
For the first time, the City conducted brief surveys of individuals living on the streets in several locations, including downtown, Palisades Park and the beach.
The surveys of 133 individuals conducted over three nights found that only 3 percent had "spent the entirety of their homeless experience in Santa Monica," 52 percent came from other parts of LA County and 29 percent were from out of state.
Most of those surveyed said they had lived on Santa Monica streets for less than one year, with 25 percent saying they had lived in the beach city for less than one month, and another 30 percent reporting having lived in Santa Monica less than a year.
The survey "supports anecdotal reports from service providers and first responders that the population is shifting from individuals that are long-term homeless in Santa Monica to a much more transitory population," officials said.
Although many have only recently arrived in the city, some two-thirds said they have been homeless for more than a year, with half of those reporting they had been homeless for at least five years.
"This increasingly transitory population and the extended chronicity of their homeless experience may also be contributing to a reduction in the use of local shelters, which is reflected in the steady decline in the number of individuals in shelters since 2013," officials said.
The 2016 count was conducted by more than 250 community volunteers and City staff who covered a total of 226 linear miles to tally homeless individuals sleeping outdoors, inside vehicles and in tents on every street in Santa Monica. The volunteers and staff also visited every shelter and hospital, as well as the City's jail.
The Count "represents the number of people identified as experiencing homelessness on a single night," City officials said, and does not represent "a cumulative number of people who may experience homelessness throughout the year."
As a result, officials caution that the count does not "accurately represent the number of homeless people who may be present in the City during daytime hours, but sleep elsewhere."
City officials attribute the continuing drop in Santa Monica's homeless population amidst a steady rise countywide to the Action Plan to Address Homelessness implemented by the City in 2008.
The most dramatic drop in Santa Monica's homeless population took place between 2009 and 2010, when the number of homeless individuals counted dropped from 915 to 742. The number has remained under 800 since then, according to the annual counts.
The data gathered in the 2016 count, as well as the survey results, will be used by an interdepartmental work group to re-evaluate and update the Action Plan to include new approaches to address homelessness.
The City Council already has funded several new strategies that include deploying "a medical and behavioral health interdisciplinary street-based treatment team" and intervening in evictions to "prevent vulnerable older adults from becoming homeless," officials said.
For more information about the count and the City’s homeless initiatives visit www.smgov.net/homelessness
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