Special to The Lookout
November 3 – With nearly 2,000 transients calling
Santa Monica’s streets home during the course of the year,
how the City tackles its homeless problem is one of the key issues
in Tuesday’s race for City Council.
A forum being aired on CityTV and sponsored by the League of
Women Voters of Santa Monica Education Fund gave the council candidates
a chance to weigh in on an issue that consistently ranks as the
top concern in resident polls.
Some of the candidates called for stronger programs, while others
want the City to determine if the current programs have created
a crutch for the homeless, who have become too dependent on Santa
Monica’s vast network of social services.
Still others think the City must crack down harder on the transients
who, they claim, are making life in the beachside town less pleasant.
One of the programs directly addressed during the forum was Housing
First, which aims to house those who have been on the streets
the longest. Another key topic of discussion was the City’s
efforts to tackle the homeless problem on a regional basis.
Here are some of the things the candidates, who are listed in
random order, had to say.
Bob Holbrook: During his 16 years on the council,
Mayor Bob Holbrook has pushed for laws that crack down on the
problem homeless, while holding the City accountable for the social
service programs it helps fund. “Homelessness is a huge
problem,” he said.
Currently, Holbrook has been working on four new projects aimed
at reducing the number of homeless in the streets, including Housing
First, which he says “has been having lots of success.”
“Lipstick Mary” -- an elderly woman who is known
for her glaring red makeup and the train of shopping carts she
pushes around Wilshire Boulevard -- is one of the chronically
homeless the program has helped, Holbrook said.
“You don’t she her anymore, because she found housing
through the city’s help,” said Holbrook, who is backed
by the Chamber of Commerce.
Other programs Holbrook supports include Homeward Bound, which
will provide the homeless, who have established supportive housing,
with a bus ticket to their hometown.
He also backs the Community Courts, which allows a judge to sentence
the homeless to rehabilitation programs rather than jail, and
has been working with food providers to move the largest outdoor
meal service to indoor sites where Social Services will be available.
Kevin McKeown: During his eight years on the
council, McKeown has been known for taking a “compassionate”
stance when it comes to the homeless. He voted against a law barring
people from sleeping on the bluffs beneath Palisades Park, because
it targeted the homeless, without providing an alternative place
for them to sleep.
He has also supported efforts to address the homeless problem
on a regional basis. Homelessness is a national disgrace and regional
challenge,” said McKeown, “but we feel the worst impact
is here in Santa Monica.”
McKeown said he wants to “take back the parks” and
move the free meal programs indoors, so that the homeless can
get “real help.”
The two-term council member said he represented Santa Monica
at a national summit and that thanks to Federal grants the City
is now able to get the homeless off the streets.
The City is “finally making real progress,” said
McKeown, who is backed by Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights
(SMRR), the city’s powerful tenants group.
Still, there is much that needs to be done, McKeown said, and
for this to happen, Santa Monica needs help from outside the city.
Terry O’Day: Planning Commissioner Terry
O’Day believes the homeless problem needs to be addressed
in order to restore Santa Monica’s quality of life and give
the streets and parks “back to our families.”
To do this, the City must tackle the symptoms of homelessness,
having zero tolerance for abusive behavior, eliminating programs
that hand out free meals in public spaces and stopping other cities
from dumping their homeless in Santa Monica.
But if the City needs to be tough, it also must lend a helping
hand with programs such as Housing First, which gives the homeless
“a better chance of becoming self-sufficient,” said
O’Day, an environmental director who along with Holbrook,
is backed by the Chamber of Commerce.
“We need a compassionate and realistic approach, because
there is no shortage of need in our community when it comes to
the homeless, and the reality is, targeting some of these chronic
homeless is actually a good model,” O’Day said.
Gleam Davis: A longtime education activist,
Gleam Davis takes a compassionate approach to the homeless, who,
she says, could be members of anyone’s family.
“In prosperous Santa Monica it truly is sad to see so many
homeless people,” said Davis, who received the SMRR endorsement.
Davis, too, believes Housing First is making a dent on homelessness,
but the City must tackle the problem using different strategies
that address the concerns of residents and businesses alike.
“I know many businesses are frustrated by the lack of responsiveness
to their complaints about the non-violent activities of homeless
persons,” Davis said.
To handle this, Davis wants to “see the city create a well-trained
homeless response team that can answer these calls in a timely
matter.” She also wants to move the homeless who occupy
storefronts, parks and yards, into service centers and shelters.
Pam O’Connor: During her 12 years on the
council, O’Connor has taken part in helping chart policies
to address the homeless problem. In 2002, she co-sponsored the
ordinance to curb programs that hand out free meals in public
O’Connor, who is in line to become chair of the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority if she is reelected to the council, feels
that homelessness, like traffic, must be addressed on a regional
“There is no doubt homelessness is one of the most challenging
issues we face as a city and region,” O’Connor said,
adding that she believes “progress is being made.”
One of the key challenges is moving the homeless off the city’s
streets, said O’Connor, who along with McKeown and Davis
makes up the SMRR slate.
But homelessness, O’Connor added, “cannot be solved
by one city,” because it requires “regional attention
Terence Later: A Santa Monica native, Terence
Later wants to hold the city more accountable for its homeless
To reduce homelessness, “we need to start with the services
available in our city,” Later said, adding that the Santa
Monica officials must “be more accountable for those they
The homeless who truly need help, such as the mentally challenged,
should be a top priority, because they need proper care to get
better, Later said.
Later would also like to see the City deal with homeless-on-homeless
crime, which he called a “major problem” that needs
to be “weeded out.”
Mark C McLellan: A real estate agent, McLellan
would also like to see the City held more accountable for its
“The current approach to homelessness is not working, and
we must do better,” McLellan said
The City, he said, cannot solve the problem until there is "an
accurate understanding of who is accessing our programs, what
services they are receiving, and the outcomes of these services.
“I support the evaluation of Santa Monica homeless services,”
because until the city knows “how” the programs are
working, “then we don’t know how to tackle the issue,”
Jonathan Mann: A flight attendant and teacher,
Jonathan Mann has made four unsuccessful bids for council as a
champion of the Internet and its potential create an “electronic
village” or “virtual town hall” that would give
citizens unprecedented access to government.
“The worst thing about Santa Monica is that we have created
a haven for the homeless and not for the people who live here,”
said Mann, whose views differed from those of the other candidates.
Homelessness is an issue that has been discussed to “absurdity”
during the election campaign, Mann said.
The City, he said, should help make the homeless self-reliant,
instead of fostering dependency.
“Santa Monica throws enormous funds to solve the problem,
and yet it gets worse every year,” Mann said.
Instead of spending its resources and money on getting the homeless
off the streets, the City should put the money into employment
opportunities for the homeless, Mann said.
Jenna Linnekens: An event planner, Jenna Linnekens
has made the homeless one of the key issues of her campaign. She
wants the City to crack down on the problem homeless who, she
says, are diminishing Santa Monica’s quality of life.
“Residents in our city should not fear aggressive panhandling,
public intoxication and those who defile our parks and streets,”
Linnekens said. “We can do better.”
Linnekens, however, does want to develop programs that will help
children get off the streets, but she did not address how she wants
to handle the homeless crisis, other than wanting them out of the