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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

November 2, 2016 -- After merging with a Los Angeles group helping the homeless, Santa Monica’s primary provider of homeless services has re-surfaced with a new identity that officials hope will promote a regional approach to the issue.

A small resource center for low-income families in Santa Monica when it started more than 50 years ago, OPCC is now part of People Concern, a new group whose formation was announced recently.

OPCC had merged last year with LAMP Community, a long-time provider of services for the homeless in Los Angeles. LAMP’s roots date back to 1985, with the opening of Los Angeles Men's Place, a drop-in center in Skid Row.

“The People Concern will be able to better execute the missions of OPCC and LAMP Community by bringing them together,” said Executive Director John Maceri.

The merger makes People Concern one of the largest providers of its kind in Los Angeles County, officials said.

Maceri said bringing OPPC and LAMP under one nonprofit umbrella will help provide “comprehensive, integrated care.”

Domnick Hadley, a People Concern representative, said the merger will not reduce OPCC services that include basic and emergency food, clothing and restroom facilities to approximately 275 people a day.

The nonprofit agency also offers supportive services to help clients stabilize their lives and live independently, officials said.

OPCC’s housing program helped more than 250 formerly homeless individuals find homes by connecting them with rental assistance from the Santa Monica Housing Authority, agency officials said.

“As we move forward as one unified agency, our participants will continue to have access to the services and programs long-delivered through OPCC and Lamp Community, provided with the same respect and compassion,” Maceri said.

L.A. County’s homeless population grew sharply countywide in the last homeless count, with nearly 47,000 people in the streets and shelters, although federal intervention helped decrease the ranks of homeless war veterans by nearly a third, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported in May.

Most of the population was concentrated in Los Angeles, with about two-thirds of the city's individuals lacking homes.

Santa Monica’s homeless count in January found 728 individuals spending the night in the city, a one percent decrease from the 2015 count. Those living in the streets totaled 416, a three percent increase from last year ("Santa Monica's Homeless Population Declines," March 2, 2016).

According to the City’s findings, 73 people lived in vehicles or encampments, which was unchanged from 2105. Those in shelter space or “emergency hotel” rooms totaled 304, a number that also has mostly dropped since 2009, when it was 428.

The 2016 homeless count in Santa Monica represents a 20 percent drop from 2009, which is used as the baseline year for homeless counts.

The largest concentration of unsheltered individuals is along the beach, with an increase from five people last year to 48 individuals in 2016 -- the highest since 2009, officials said. No minors or families were counted there.

Maceri said People Concern will "provide mental and medical health care, substance abuse services and permanent supportive housing."

The services help homeless individuals and families as well "survivors of domestic violence, challenged youth, indigent Veterans, and others who have nowhere else to turn," he said.

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