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Santa Monica's Homeless Efforts Hampered by Outside Forces, Officials Say  

By Jason Islas
Special to the Lookout

May 12, 2011 – The city's fight to reduce homelessness is being hampered by regional funding guidelines and a slow-moving federal bureaucracy, homeless officials told the Santa Monica City Council Tuesday.

The prognosis came during a session to bring the council up to speed on the progress of a range of efforts to put a dent in the seemingly intractable problem.

Council Member Bobby Shriver congratulated the speakers for their hard work, but also took the opportunity to express his frustration on how slow Federal partners are to respond to the needs of the homeless community.

“I feel like we miss a little bit of outrage,” he said in response to the VA and Federal government's failure to use their property and resources for housing homeless vets. “We still don't have the people in the beds,” he said.

Human Services Manager Julie Rusk assured Shriver that getting the VA to use their resources to get more housing for homeless people has been a priority for the City of Santa Monica.

For her part, Homeless Services Administrator Setareh Yavari expressed frustration with new funding guidelines from Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).

LAHSA's new funding criteria “penalizes those jurisdictions, such as Santa Monica, who are investing in solutions rather than incentivizing other communities to step up,” said Yavari.

She said that LAHSA's “methodology for determining fair share is flawed,” pointing out that though Santa Monica serves a regional homeless population, LAHSA depends on data that underestimate the number of people Santa Monica helps.

Recently, Santa Monica was denied two housing vouchers that it had been routinely rewarded because, according to Rusk, LAHSA believes Santa Monica is getting more than its fair share.

“Over 70 percentof the clients served who are not Santa Monica priority, originally came from L.A. city and county,” said Yavari.

“We've provided millions of dollars in capital development funds to build shelters, access centers and permanent housing at a far greater level than other jurisdictions our size,” she said.

That combined with LAHSA's attempt to make Santa Monica to use LAHSA's database system, despite a prior agreement to integrate Santa Monica's system, “may eventually force the City to reconsider our relationship with LAHSA” and “explore the option of forming a separate continuum of care,” Yavari said.

After her report, Yavari introduced Flora Gil Krisiloff, senior Field Deputy from County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's office.

Krisiloff has been working in collaboration with Congressman Henry Waxman's office and four non-profits, including Ocean Park Community Center (OPCC) and Step Up on Second, on Project 60, a drive to get the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to use a housing-first approach.

They want to get at least 60 chronically homeless veterans into permanent housing within two years.

Since February, 52 veterans have been enrolled in the project and 15 have been housed, according to Krisiloff.

As a result of Project 60, the VA has been cutting their red tape, Krisiloff said, and will begin hiring mental health staff that can actually go out into the field to find homeless vets.

Though there are still many changes to be made, “We're off to a good start,” Krisiloff said.

Christine Marge, director of housing & health with the United Way, Greater Los Angeles thanked the city for its commitment to the Home for Good program, a five year plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness launched in December 2010.

Marge stressed the importance of inter-agency and funding coordination for the future of programs which seek to end homelessness.

“We've asked HUD to provide guidance and direction to our local housing authorities on how housing authorities can best coordinate,” she said, referring to a summit in April with federal and local leaders.

They've also sought support to revise the McKinney-Vento funding formula, a cause that Santa Monica has supported, Marge said.


“We still don't have the people in the beds.” Council member Bobby Shriver on the VA and Federal government's failure to use their property and resources for housing homeless vets.

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