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Council Votes to Declare Homelessness Emergency

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By Jorge Casuso

February 15, 2023 -- The City Council Tuesday night unanimously voted to declare a Local Emergency on Homelessness that will boost funding and speed up hiring to address a worsening crisis.

The move will make it easier to receive help -- including funding -- from County, State and Federal governments and "remove barriers to building affordable housing," City officials said.

The emergency takes effect immediately and will last 180 days unless repealed or extended by the Council.

“The reality is that we cannot address this crisis on our own, and we need our regional, state, and federal partners to support us,” said City Manager David White.

“By declaring a homelessness state of emergency, Santa Monica is poised to receive more resources," White said.

To declare an emergency, the Council made the necessary findings, which included an increase in the number of public safety calls for service, encampments, public deaths, arson and vandalism tied to the homeless.

White assured the Council the declaration would result in visible actions taken immediately to address the crisis. "You're going to see a lot," he said.

Immediate actions include freeing up some of the $25 million in the City's Affordable Housing Trust to finance shovel-ready projects as early as next month, White said. The City also will issue Requests for Proposals (RFPs) in "short order."

In addition, the Council will also immediately begin exploring how to use the estimated $4.1 million a year generated by voter-approved Measure CS, which raises the bed tax on hotels, motels and home shares to address homelessness and public safety.

It also will "get people to work as quickly as possible" by streamlining the hiring process and reducing requirements amid "a region-wide staffing shortage," White said.

In addition, the declaration allows the City to work more closely with regional partners, including LA Metro, which is exploring ways to address the impacts at end-of-the-line light rail stations like the one in Downtown Santa Monica.

The Metro Board is currently assessing a plan to place service hubs near the stations for homeless passengers removed from trains when they stop running late at night ("Metro to Explore Hubs for Homeless Passengers When Trains Are Emptied," January 30, 2023).

The City also plans to bring Caltrans "to the table" to address the homeless encampments and debris on the freeway embankments the State transportation agency controls.

"Caltrans is not taking care of their property," White said.

Santa Monica will also forge closer working relationships with the City and County of Los Angeles and the cities of Long Beach and Culver City, which have declared similar local emergencies.

Mayor Gleam Davis issued a statement Wednesday saying emergency efforts are already underway.

“Clearly, we all know that here in Santa Monica and in our region, addressing homelessness is a top concern,” she said. “As your mayor in the coming year, I promise to remain focused on this issue.

"I am already advocating from the federal level on down for more resources for housing and supportive services, and I am committed to working with other mayors in our region to address this regional issue.”

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