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Santa Monica to Boost Its Homeless Outreach Efforts

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By Jorge Casuso

September 6, 2019 -- Santa Monica is poised to boost its homeless outreach efforts by spending an additional $2 million over the next two years.

The City Council on Tuesday is expected to modify the City's contracts with OPCC and Los Angeles County that fund two "skilled professional street teams" deployed to "consistently engage persons experiencing homelessness," staff said.

The proposed contract modifications boost funding for OPCC's Homeless Multidisciplinary Street Team (HMST) from $1.65 million to $2.85 million over the current and upcoming fiscal years.

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The contract with the County to provide a homeless outreach team in the Downtown area would increase from the current $1.1 million to $2 million over the same period.

Of that amount, $300,000 would come from a County grant, staff said.

The outreach teams are part of a pilot program to address "the unmet health and behavioral health needs and impacts of unsheltered people in public spaces," staff said in its report.

"Both teams operate in collaboration with a wide range of local and regional service providers to directly link people living on our streets to the services that will assist them on a path to get off the streets into permanent housing," staff wrote.

"In cooperation with law enforcement, these teams also contribute to making our public spaces safer, healthier and more accessible to all by working to address and prevent the anti-social behaviors."

First funded in 2016, OPCC's team attempts to help the "the highest utilizers of police and fire resources" find housing, staff said.

OPCC's street team includes a program manager, a wellness case manager, a housing case manager and a substance abuse case manager.

There is also a physician, psychiatrist, physician’s assistant and peer support specialist who spend time with the program.

Since it was launched, the program has placed 25 of the 37 homeless participants into interim housing, with 19 transitioning into permanent housing, staff said.

A RAND study released in June estimated that by reducing the number of encounters between the homeless and public safety providers, the City recouped between 17 percent and 43 percent of the money invested in the team.

It also found that the chronically homeless people the program helped in its first 18 months continued to require intensive care, posing a "key challenge" ("City Program Helps Santa Monica's Chronically Homeless But Faces 'Key Challenge,' RAND Study Finds," June 5, 2019).

“This is a very difficult population both to convince to receive services and then to manage their many needs on an ongoing basis,” said Scott Ashwood, the study’s lead author.

Launched in 2017, the County outreach team "provides geographic-based outreach, medical, and behavioral health interventions to people experiencing homelessness in the Downtown area," staff said.

Since its was deployed, the team has engaged more than 3,000 times with 1,600 different homeless individuals. It has provided more than 200 medical services and connected 61 individuals to mental health resources, staff said.

In 2019, the Downtown area saw a 19 percent decrease in the number of homeless individuals counted in the annual homeless census conduced in January, staff said.

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