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Santa Monica Looking for Volunteers to Help with Homeless Count  
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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

January 11, 2017 -- In an effort to determine how best to help a desperate population, the City of Santa Monica is looking for volunteers to comb local streets, alleys, parks and beaches to count the homeless, who last year totaled 728 people.

Some 250 volunteers helped with last year’s count and at least that many are needed again this year, officials said. The deadline to register for the 2017 count is 5 p.m. on Wednesday, January 18, and can be done online at www.smgov.net/homelessness.

Rain or shine, the count will take place January 25 from 10:30 p.m. until about 2:30 a.m. Participants meet at St. Monica Catholic Community, Grand Pavilion, 725 California Avenue.

Like much of California, Santa Monica has struggled with a problem with homelessness for decades, with the concentration of people living on the streets once exceeding that of nearly any other city in the state.

In the early 1990s, City Hall's lenient policy towards those living on the streets earned the moniker "Home of the Homeeless."

But the homeless population began dwindling in the mid-1990s when the City Council initiated a crackdown that included curbing panhandling and banning camping overnight in public spaces.

Since the City initiated its homeless count,the number of individuals living on its streets has dropped from a high of 915 people in 2009 and has stabilized in recent years.

Still, the City discovered a sharp increase in homeless people living along the beach in its latest count, when it rose from just five people in 2015 to 48 individuals in 2016 -- the highest since 2009, officials said.

No minors or families were counted there.

Counts help City officials assess the size of the homeless population, its composition (such as how many are individuals versus families), areas of concentration and services needed, including like health and mental health care and temporary housing.

Santa Monica supports a regional approach to helping the homeless population, which is highly transient and costly to serve.

The nation-wide Point-in-Time Homeless Count and Survey occurs annually during the last week of January. It coincides with the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count -- the largest in the United States -- which takes place from January 24 to January 26.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) tracks the results in each community to determine the amount of federal funds allocated to homeless programs

L.A. County’s homeless population jumped sharply in the last count, mostly in the City of Los Angeles. In all, though, nearly 47,000 people lived in the streets or 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.

Volunteers for Santa Monica’s count will need to commit from three to four hours and will be trained and given the materials they need, officials said. They are assigned to teams of two or three people the night of the count and are given a designated area of the city. No pets are allowed.

The City suggests volunteers dress in layers to prepare for cooler night temperatures, wear comfortable shoes and not bring personal belongings that can’t be easily carried for the night.


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