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25 Santa Monicans Take Major Step Out of Homelessness


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By Jorge Casuso

February 16, 2024 -- Twenty-five people living on the streets of Santa Monica were shuttled Wednesday to the first rooms they've had in years in their first big step out of homelessness.

The effort is part LA County's Pathway Home program that places homeless individuals in motel rooms accompanied by comprehensive supportive services as they await a permanent home.

James Thomas
James Thomas holds a key to his room. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker)

Launched last year, the program partners with local jurisdictions, social service agencies and mental health outreach teams and others to help those who need and want it most.

“All of us want the same thing: to help those living outdoors in our city find a safe place to go and get them on a pathway out of homelessness for good,” Mayor Phil Brock said in a statement Friday.

“In Santa Monica, we know that we can’t address the homelessness crisis on our own and this partnership with L.A. County allows us to break the cycle of homelessness, ensuring folks are not languishing on our streets and also restoring public spaces to their intended uses.”

Brock was at the undisclosed motel in Santa Monica Wednesday when vans brought the homeless individuals, many of them elderly, who agreed to participate in the program.

"These are people who have been on the streets of our city for the long term," Brock told the Lookout. "They have not migrated here."

"These are people we talked to for days, weeks, months. Will you come indoors? These weren't people who come to Santa Monica to do drugs."

Among those who participated was an elderly couple who had been living on Downtown's streets for four years and an elderly mother and her daughter who had been living in their car for more than two years.

"It was touching to see one couple touch the bed, and say they won't have to sleep on concrete," Brock said. "Some had tears in their eyes. They had a place. They could start over."

"We gave people a chance to live out the rest of their years" somewhere safe, he added. "This is the most profound experience I have had on the Council."

Over the next three to four months, the program's clients will be moved into permanent housing in the LA area, Brock said. Another 15 homeless individuals will enter the program over the next few weeks.

The Pathway Home program was launched last year as part of LA County's response to the homelessness emergency declared as the County's homeless population reached an estimated 75,518 people, nearly three-quarters of them living on the streets.

On Wednesday, the LA County Homeless Initiative collaborated with the Office of Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath, the City of Santa Monica and the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to conduct the Pathway Home operation, officials said.

Other key players in the effort are the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), the nonprofit service provider The People Concern (TPC), and the LA County Department of Mental Health’s Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement (HOME) Team.

The groups' efforts "were essential to bringing unsheltered residents indoors as they had built trusting relationships with them by providing engagement and support during their unhoused experience," City officials said.

Horvath, whose 3rd District includes Santa Monica, said the program reflects "the all-hands-on-deck response that our homelessness emergency requires.

“Multiple County departments, County-funded rental subsidies and outreach teams, housing navigators, and mental health clinicians" are part of the effort, Horvath said. "County-city-community partnerships will see us out of this crisis.”

The LA County Department of Health Services-Housing for Health, LAHSA, and TPC will support the clients at the interim housing location, City officials said.

“By bringing together a robust array of partners and resources, we’re not just addressing the symptoms of homelessness," said John Maceri, CEO of The People Concern. "We’re working towards sustainable, long-term, and permanent solutions.

"Every person we assist moving from an encampment into stable supportive housing represents a step forward in our journey towards a Los Angeles where everyone is housed, healthy and safe.”

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