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Santa Monica's Homeless Population Sees 8 Percent Drop
 

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By Lookout Staff

June 12, 2020 -- Santa Monica's homeless population dropped by 8 percent this year, from 985 individuals in 2019 to 907, based on a census conducted on the night of January 22.

Of those counted in Santa Monica, 601 -- or two-thirds -- were living on the streets, in tents and in vehicles, according to the count.

Another 306 -- or about one-third -- were in shelters, hospitals, motels and jail.

The number of individuals counted on the beach and in the Downtown decreased by 14 percent, following a 19 percent decrease the previous year.

Santa Monica's 8 percent decrease came as Los Angeles County saw a 12 percent rise in its homeless population to 66,433 people, and the city of Los Angeles saw a 14.2 percent rise to 41,290.

“The local numbers contrast with regional increases, and make clear that Santa Monica’s street-based outreach model for persons experiencing homelessness does work," said Mayor Kevin McKeown.

The annual homeless count was conducted by 350 local volunteers nearly two months before a coronavirus emergency was declared by the City.

"We’ve yet to see the impacts of COVID-19 and economic challenges," McKeown said, "but Santa Monica’s eviction moratorium and ongoing commitment to leverage state and federal funding for housing assistance will keep local residents from being forced onto the streets.”

In April, the City extended to June 30 an eviction moratorium that gives tenants who can show they were unable to pay rent due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus crackdown a year to come up with the back rent ("City Gives Tenants Strapped by Coronavirus Shutdown One Year to Pay Back Rent," April 30, 2020).

Last month, the City set aside more than $3.85 million in housing assistance and staffing to keep as many as 450 seniors in their rent-controlled apartments and help 307 low-and moderate income tenants pay their rent for three months ("City Restores $6.4 Million in Budget Cuts; Free Playground Program, Crossing Guards Axed," May 27, 2020).

This year’s County census found that two-thirds of the adults living on the streets were homeless for the first time last year, and 59 percent cited economic hardship as the cause.

Officials blame the region's steeply rising housing costs triggered by the sudden influx of high tech jobs into the region ("Housing Targets Will Be Difficult to Contest, Experts Say," December 17, 2019).

In the County, nearly one-third, or 14,284, of those who lived on the street reported substance use, and 26 percent, or 11,711, reported long-term mental health conditions.

Blacks represented a disproportionate number of the County's homeless population, according to the count.

"While all other racial groups were evenly or under-represented," County officials said, "Black people accounted for 33.7 percent of the homeless population, but make up only 7.9 percent of the county’s general population."


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