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City Extends Search for Homeless Liaison

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

September 14 -- Despite the lure of a six figure salary, City officials Monday said they will push back until the end of the month the deadline to accept resumes for a liaison to spearhead Santa Monica’s fight against regional homelessness.

Less than two dozen candidates have applied for the $200,000-year post, a response City Manager Susan McCarthy has described as “light.” City officials said they hope increased and focused advertising will boost the quality and size of the applicant pool.

“Those who have applied run the range from wholly unqualified to some who are good,” McCarthy said. “We’re going to extend the date and advertise in the Chronicle of Philanthropy and other non-profit news outlets.”

The deadline to receive applications was Friday, September 9.

Since the City Council approved the post last May, the post has been advertised in The Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Business Journal and other traditional newspapers and news outlets.

Council member Bobby Shriver -- who first introduced the idea of creating a homeless liaison position to rally and better coordinate regional responses to homeless issues -- got a glimpse at the current crop of candidates.

“Of the ones I’ve seen, only a couple were realistic,” Shriver said. “However, both were Los Angeles-area, well-known, political people. You’d be surprised who they were, though, some pretty interesting and senior people.”

Extending the deadline was necessary since many applicants are still returning from vacation and will give the City more time to “focus attention on the opportunity,” Shriver said.

Big name politicos or businessmen -- such as Leon Panetta, former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, or former Disney CEO Michael Eisner -- are examples of the type of candidates Shriver hopes will fill the position.

Whoever the City hires will have to be a larger-than-life personality in order to wrangle support for the at-times taboo subject of caring for the homeless, he said.

Meanwhile, the choice of a liaison comes at a time when the region remains in flux on homeless issues and policies.

On Sept. 22, Shriver will make a presentation to the secretary on veterans affairs to make or break a deal to provide between 600 and 700 beds to shelter homeless veterans at a Westwood Veterans Administration (VA) facility.

“I’ve been working like a dog on this,” said Shriver. “There’s a dozen hurdles to get past, including other cities and neighborhood groups. There’s people offering a lot of compensation for these buildings and this land.”

While Shriver is busy brokering the deal, officials in the City’s human resources division – which is in charge of homeless issues – presented a progress report to Council members Tuesday night on a host of items related to helping the homeless get off the streets.

The City also accepted a $700,000 grant from the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUDD) for costs related to housing nearly 30 of the most chronically homeless individuals in Santa Monica. The program, which signals a shift in the City’s homeless policies -- is known as the chronic homeless pilot program.

At the regional level, several cities that make up the Westside Council of Governments (WCOG) -- including Beverly Hills, Culver City, West Los Angeles and western sections of Los Angeles -- have approved a resolution to work together to end homelessness by establishing regional facilities throughout the Westside.

In addition, the County Board of Supervisors has voted to earmark $26 million in funds to combat the county’s persistent homeless problem. The funds, however, were put on hold after the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) fell on hard times after an accounting crisis was uncovered in a July audit.

Several non-profits, who depend on LAHSA funding throughout the Los Angeles area have struggled to keep the cash flowing for services. Some, including St. Joseph’s Center, have had to take out loans until the agency gets its accounting in order.

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