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Councilmembers Want Answers to "Simple" Questions About Homeless Efforts

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By Jorge Casuso

December 3, 2021 -- Last December, Phil Brock was sworn in after finishing first in the race for City Council by promising to tackle Santa Monica's entrenched homeless problem.

A year later, he and his two fellow Change slate Councilmembers have placed an item on next Tuesday's agenda seekig answers to basic questions Brock says they have been asking all year.

The questions range from what geographic areas are covered by homeless outreach teams and how many people they contact to a map and directory of public restrooms and the hours they are open.

"I'm not getting any answers, our residents are not getting any relief, and our homeless are not getting any help," Brock said.

"These questions are fundamental. It's been a year since my election, and I feel I'm failing, and I don't want to fail. If I fail, I fail all residents."

Brock says his search for answers to "simple" questions has led to frustrating delays, as his requests are shuffled between government officials and service providers resulting in little or no information.

Those he says he has asked to provide information include The People Concern, West Coast Care, St. Joseph's Center, City staff and County Commissioner Sheila Kuehl's office.

"The things I'm asking for are simple, but staff has not been forthcoming," he said. "We need to be completely transparent and let residents know where we're failing."

The information Brock and Councilmembers Oscar de la Torre and Christine Parra are seeking include:

  • Contact information for members of the community who want to help a homeless individual find shelter or emergency care;

  • Contact information for regional street-based outreach teams, a map of the areas they cover and hours of operation in the city;

  • A map and public directory of all available public restrooms and hours of operation;

  • Information on existing shelters and hygiene services for people "experiencing homelessness or in medical or mental health crisis;"

  • Information on "all existing funding sources for such services," and

  • Suggested opportunities "to add new resources to the system of care."

The list also includes what the City has done to identify "city-owned land and sites that could provide additional temporary shelter capacity," a question de la Torre has been asking.

Brock believes the city's expensive outreach teams should be contacting every homeless person every day.

The 2020 homeless census counted 907 homeless individuals, with 601 of them living in the street.

To reach those individuals, the City Council two years ago boosted funding for The People Concern's Homeless Multidisciplinary Street Team (HMST) from $1.65 million to $2.85 million over the next two years.

Meanwhile, the contract with the County to provide a homeless outreach team in the Downtown area was increased from $1.1 million to $2 million over the same period.

The latest budget approved by the City in June adds two new Community Services Department positions to engage with regional partners to address the homelessness.

It also funds a two-year Community Response Unit program pilot focused on the Fire Department's response to calls for service involving the homeless.

"Where are our street teams and what are we doing?" Brock asked. "If they say they are overwhelmed, then as a City we need to figure out how to get them the money.

"We talk a good game in Santa Monica," he said, "but we're not solving problems."

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