City of Santa Monica
California

Staff Report
3376

Annual Report on Homelessness

Information

Department:City Manager's OfficeSponsors:
Category:08. Administrative Item

Recommended Action

Recommended Action
Staff recommends that the City Council:

1) Review and comment on the Four-Pillar strategy and activities in the report, and direct staff to proceed with the next steps;

2) Direct staff to proceed with feasibility analysis of possible sites for the replacement of SAMOSHEL and associated community engagement process and return to Council with recommendations;

3) Authorize budget changes as outlined in the Financial Impacts and Budget Actions section of this report.

 

 

 

Staff Report Body

Executive Summary

Homelessness has been a challenge in Santa Monica for decades.  As the numbers of people experiencing homelessness throughout Los Angeles County has dramatically increased in recent years, the City Council in 2015 focused on Santa Monica taking regional leadership on this shared crisis.

Much has been accomplished, yet the latest numbers indicate that community public health, wellbeing and safety concerns remain unresolved.  Despite progress in matching people experiencing homelessness to services and permanent supportive housing in Santa Monica and elsewhere in the County, there has also been an unprecedented increase in the number of housed residents at risk of becoming homeless.

In Santa Monica, results of 2019s annual point-in-time Homeless Count tabulated by staff confirm that the City has made great strides in addressing homelessness in key geographic areas through its targeted interventions, while the overall number of people experiencing homelessness is holding steady citywide.

While we are committed to reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness in Santa Monica, we cannot end homelessness within our City borders alone. The City must continue its role as a regional leader and seek a collaborative and innovative approach to finding short and long-term solutions that build capacity within neighboring communities, while serving the urgent needs of the most vulnerable living among us in Santa Monica and enhancing health and safety for all in our community. Specifically staff recommends a refreshed four-pillar approach that includes:

1.              Preventing housed Santa Monicans from becoming homeless and increasing affordable housing opportunities.

2.              Addressing the behavioral health needs of vulnerable residents.

3.              Maintaining equitable access to safe, fun, and healthy open spaces.

4.              Strengthening regional capacity to address homelessness.

 

 

Background

Santa Monica has a robust history of designing innovative and comprehensive homelessness services based on the needs of the current population. Previous reports to Council outline this rich history and lay the foundation for our current homelessness services delivery system. Please see attachment A

City Council set taking a leadership role in regional efforts to address homelessness as one of its five strategic goals in August 2015. This led to the creation of a Homeless Strategic Goal Action Team that included several piloted initiatives by staff to document and respond to public concerns of a growing unsheltered homeless population. These initiatives were seeded with $1.4M in one-time general fund surplus dollars in November 2017 and reallocated departmental budget funding. A progress report on these initiatives, many of which have become promising practices that inform this report, can be found in, Update on Pilot Initiatives to Address Homelessness (Attachment B).

In January 2019, City Council voted to once again affirm its commitment to reducing homelessness within the City limits. Based on results from the SaMo Says: Community Priorities Survey,” Council selected “Reduce Homelessness” as one of the six City Framework priorities for the FY2019-21 Biennial Budget cycle. See Attachment C for the survey results and summary of the Council discussion.

Staff propose to define the “Reduce Homelessness” framework outcome through a four-pillar approach outlined in this report, along with recommended next steps for consideration during the FY2019-21 Biennial Budget cycle.

As progress is being made, staff recognize public health and safety concerns expressed by residents and visitors related to homelessness in Santa Monica. It is important to reiterate that homelessness is not a crime, yet the presence of people meeting basic needs in open spaces can contribute to a public perception of discomfort that often leads to a sense of not feeling safe. At the same time, there is a percentage of people experiencing homelessness who do commit crimes, as in general population, and homeless people themselves are often victims of crime at a higher rate than the non-homeless population. The City has and enforces strict anti-camping and other laws to regulate the use of public spaces to ensure safe, equitable access for all. Yet, as the proportion of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness increases compared to those seeking shelter, a countywide trend for which Santa Monica is no longer immune, the City must continue to respond with enhanced strategies to mitigate the impact of street homelessness. City Council held a study session on Public Safety in Parks and Beaches on March 5th   and provided several items of specific direction for next steps (Attachment D). In 2018, the City doubled down on its homelessness outreach through expansion of place-based strategies that increased situational awareness of who is experiencing homelessness, what their needs are, and with whom city staff can coordinate to (re)connect them to services. A place-based approach, compared to the Citys historic “people” approach, created a pathway for nontraditional departments such as Library, Big Blue Bus and Public Works to join the conversation, increased data collection of incidents and engagements, and increased inter-departmental communication to more rapidly deploy proactive outreach services to mitigate rising concerns. The success of these efforts are reflected in the 2019 Homeless Count results.

The 2019 Homeless Count results indicate that the unsheltered count of people experiencing homelessness in Downtown Santa Monica area decreased by 19%, suggesting that the Citys investment in a geographic-focused multi-disciplinary street team and additional efforts by SMPDs Homeless Liaison Program are making an impact. This is significant as we look forward to prioritizing what programs are working effectively to move the needle on homelessness.

Overall, homelessness held largely steady in the city.  The increase of 3% in the overall total count from 2018 to 2019 is essentially within the margin of error since the annual one night count is subject to variation by daily weather conditions and other day-to-day fluctuations.  The total count of people experiencing homelessness increased from 957 to 985 between 2018 and 2019. The total number of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness increased by 1% (646 to 654) mainly due to an increase in vehicle homelessness. The total number of sheltered people experiencing homelessness increased by 6% (311 to 331), as the number of people in local hospitals more than tripled from 8 to 27, possibly resulting from the implementation of a new state law (SB1152) that requires stricter discharge planning. The City has begun conversations with local hospitals to better understand this increase. Staff will report back to Council a more thorough analysis of these results after June when the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) releases the countywide results. See Attachment E for a year-over-year comparison.

 

Discussion

The City of Santa Monica has a longstanding commitment to reducing homelessness within its jurisdiction and is an innovator of intervention models that have become regional and national best-practices. The City continues this tradition, leveraging data, mobile and web-based technologies, and the principles of performance management to more effectively prioritize and evaluate strategies to put resources where they are needed most. The City is starting 2019 with renewed energy and refined focus on its strategy to address homelessness within our borders through a comprehensive street-outreach approach while staying steadfast in our call-to-action of neighboring communities to increase homelessness resources within their jurisdictions. Reducing Homelessness as a Framework priority for the upcoming bi-annual budget process fosters momentum across the organization and memorializes that homelessness is an organizational-wide responsibility for which every department can contribute talent, expertise, and resources.

The Homeless Action Team (a cross-departmental work team) proposes to define “reducing homelessness” inclusively, and not through a crisis-oriented lens, to achieve balance between immediate and longer-term strategies so that we mitigate current concerns while driving toward the roots of the issue so that our solutions do not simply accommodate and move people around, but eventually impact the number of new people falling into homelessness. To capture this balance, guide the organizations comprehensive homelessness strategy for the next two years, and lay a foundation for quantifiable outcome metrics, the Homeless Action Team presents a four-pillar approach for Councils consideration and adoption. This approach is introduced here, with each pillar associated to a Framework outcome as indicated:

1. Prevent housed Santa Monicans from becoming homeless and increase affordable housing opportunities. Protect low-income residents who are currently housed in Santa Monica from losing housing and continue to dedicate Housing Trust Fund dollars to develop and rehabilitate affordable and supportive housing for special needs populations. [Economic Opportunity]

2. Address the behavioral health needs of vulnerable residents. Increase equitable access to comprehensive behavioral health services for persons experiencing unsheltered homelessness and living with untreated mental health and addiction, often displaying anti-social behaviors in open spaces. [Health]

3. Maintain equitable access to safe, fun, and healthy open spaces. Ensure public spaces are safe, healthy, and accessible to everyone through improvements to infrastructure, ongoing maintenance, activation, outreach and engagement, and enforcement. [Place and Planet]

4. Strengthen regional capacity to address homelessness. Santa Monica must restore regional equilibrium by increasing services, homelessness facilities, and housing opportunities in neighboring communities across the Westside through the development of a regional strategy in efforts to truly move the needle on this crisis. [Governance]

Implementation of the Four-Pillar Strategy

The four-pillar approached was developed based on data presented by departments over the past year, recommendations from the Santa Monica Homelessness Steering Committee (an all-volunteer homeless stakeholders group), and an analysis of regional trends.

Each pillar is presented below with 1) a description of the pillar and why it is significant to Santa Monica, 2) “Promising Practices” that have emerged since implementing the Homeless Goal Action Plan, and 3) “Next Steps” that staff recommend for Council direction. 

Pillar One: Prevent housed Santa Monicans from becoming homeless.

Within the City, there are over 12,000 households at-risk of homelessness identified as those whom earn less than $50,000 per year and pay over 30% of their income on rent. Currently, there is no evidence-based predictive analysis to identify who within this population will actually fall into homelessness. However, a recent Zillow report shows that if the average rental affordability worsens in the L.A. region by just 2%, meaning a renter must spend 51% compared to 49% of their income on rent, an additional 4,227 people will fall into homelessness. New homeless households are inevitable under current trends without intervention.

Santa Monica has invested in homelessness prevention for several decades through a commitment to renter protections and services for those facing eviction through partnership with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and St. Joseph Center. The Consumer Protection Division within the City Attorneys Office helps tenants and property owners understand their rights and responsibilities under the law. The division also brings enforcement actions to enforce housing laws, successfully protecting residents from unlawful discrimination in seeking housing and unlawful harassment and evictions once housed.

In 2017, the City also piloted the Preserving Our Diversity (POD) program, an initiative that provides financial assistance using as a basic needs formula to low-income seniors residing in rent-controlled apartments. Additionally, the City voted to assess a quarter cent sales tax and dedicated it to affordable housing. The funds were matched with former redevelopment loan repayments to generate $15M annually for new affordable housing Development. Almost $4M per year is dedicated to special needs populations including homeless and formerly homeless households.

One of the lesser-known prevention efforts revolves around first responders, primarily firefighters and paramedics with SMFD. Santa Monica Fire Department employees are uniquely positioned to provide insight into the hidden population of housed residents who are acutely vulnerable to losing their apartments in our current economy. Both SMFD and SMPD train their first responders to identify risk factors for homelessness and provide outreach tools and contact information for service providers who may be able to help retain housing. 

 

Promising Practices

Preserving Our Diversity (POD) Pilot Program. In 2018, the City piloted the POD Program to help low-income rent burdened seniors retain their housing through a cash-based program based on need. This program is emerging as a regional prevention model for older adults. Between 2017 and 2018 in L.A. County, the number of people 62 and older experiencing homelessness increased by 21%. As a response to the increase, staff is coming to Council with a request to expand the POD program and authorize funding from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. A funding request for staff time is also being submitted as part of the FY 2019-21 biennial budget process.

Farmers Market Food Security Programs. The Santa Monica Farmers Market (SMFM) participates in three food assistance programs: Cal-Fresh/EBT, Women, Infant and Children (WIC), and Market Match. Market Match is a grant-funded farmers market incentive program that is available only at the Pico market at Virginia Avenue Park and administered by Hunger Action LA, a local non-profit. In total, $79,067 of produce was sold through these programs, creating healthy food choices to low-income households to reduce hunger and help save limited disposable income.

Planning and Community Development Tenant Protections. The Citys Planning and Community Development Department manages two tenant protection programs: temporary tenant relocation assistance and tenant protections during construction. In January 2017, the City hired a full-time Neighborhood Preservation Coordinator to help manage both programs. Since then, the Department has also implemented new tools and procedures to efficiently respond to tenant concerns related to the habitability of their homes and track the number of cases where tenants homes are rendered uninhabitable. The data collected will be used to assess trends and help inform future policies and procedures. In 2017, the Department deemed 244 units as uninhabitable; however, the figure decreased to 162 in 2018. Nearly half of all units deemed uninhabitable in 2018 were cited for having no heat. 

 

Next Steps:

·              Continue to promote the Citys Homeless Prevention services and expand affordable and supportive housing opportunities for households at risk of becoming homeless.

·              Continue to improve demographic data collection at SMFM events to inform additional prevention interventions. 

·              Leverage SMFDs unique role in the community to connect housed vulnerable populations with the right resources to prevent homelessness and expand data collection of these incidents.

·              Expand the capacity of the POD program to include additional participants.


Pillar Two: Address the behavioral health needs of vulnerable residents

Regionally, 30% of people experiencing homelessness self-report also living with mental illness, another 25% self-report addiction disorders, and 10% self-report co-occurring disorders. Homelessness, particularly unsheltered homelessness, exacerbates these illnesses by weakening recovery support systems, including creating barriers to accessing stabilizing medication. When untreated, these diseases lead to anti-social behaviors that negatively impact quality of life for the person and raise public health and safety concerns in the greater community. Locally, untreated mental illness and increased methamphetamine usage create the greatest challenge to the successful implementation of our homelessness strategies. The City has responded through coordination and professionalization of local outreach efforts.

According to David Downing, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Agency, Los Angeles Field Division, “while opioid abuse is becoming a national crisis, meth is a bigger problem in Los Angeles.” The Santa Monica Police Department has documented a decrease in inebriates and significant increase in methamphetamine users over the past five-years. Since 2014, public intoxication decreased 43%, while persons in possession of methamphetamine increased by 152% across all populations. People experiencing homelessness represented 69% of possession of methamphetamine dispositions in 2018.

Likewise, the number of people living with untreated mental illness, induced by methamphetamine and other illegal drugs in some cases, has also increased. Santa Monica Police Department reports processing two 5150 Welfare and Institutions Code involuntary psychiatric holds on average per day and a 94% increase in voluntary and involuntary mental health transports since 2014. Fifty-nine percent of these transports were made to hospitals and intake facilities on the West side, including the two local hospitals (Providence Saint John's Health Center and UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica), and Exodus Recoverys Psych Urgent Care in Culver City. However, the remaining 41% of transports are made by police officers in patrol vehicles to locations outside of the area such as Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Carson, Exodus Recovery at the Martin Luther King Medical Center, Exodus Recovery Eastside, and the VA Hospital.  Each of these transports represents a significant drain on patrol resources due to long travel and wait times.

In 2018, SMFD reported a 77% increase in the number of patients experiencing homelessness evaluated and treated by paramedics (see chart below). This percentage represents 30% of all SMFD responses. Of the 30%, 13%, or 119 people had a mental health complaint and 165, or 18%, people had an alcohol related complaint. Under current State policy, SMFD can only transport these individuals to a designated medical facility (i.e., one of the two local emergency rooms or Ronald Reagan Hospital for serious trauma) where these patients must then wait for an additional transport to a designated mental health facility. These circumstance create a strain within the health care community and delay access to appropriate treatment.

 

 

Per the state Welfare and Institutions Code, Article 1, section 5150, SMPD is able to transport those in need of emergency psychiatric treatment to hospitals and designated alternative care destination facilities. To provide more trauma-informed transports for persons in crisis, SMPD contracted with McCormick Ambulance in late 2018 to provide non-emergency ambulance transport. At the direction of police staff, McCormick can transport individuals suffering from mental illness with no acute medical issues directly to any regional intake centers without overburdening our local emergency rooms or patrol resources.

In 2018, the City increased the clinical capacity of local outreach teams by launching the new C3 Homeless Outreach Multidisciplinary Team, expanding the case management slots for the Homeless Multidisciplinary Street Team (HMST), and strengthening the coordination with the Department of Mental Health (DMH) clinicians embedded within SMPD. An “as-needed” social worker position was also approved by Human Resources in 2018 and is expected to be filled by spring 2019.

 

Promising Practices

Expansion of the Homeless Multidisciplinary Street Team (HMST): Funded in part by Supervisor Kuehl, the HMST Team provides ongoing case management services to high utilizers of local emergency medical and police systems. Since its launch in 2016, this team has placed 25 people into interim housing and 16 into permanent housing. In 2018, the team managed a caseload of 20 people and had 1,331 engagements with this highly vulnerable cohort.

Department of Mental Health Clinicians: One of the most effective inter-agency collaborations has been the partnership between L.A. Countys Department of Mental Health and SMPD. Two full-time clinicians are assigned to SMPD and deployed in the field with partner officers. One clinician is primarily with a patrol officer responding to radio calls for mental health evaluations in the community at large. The second clinician is devoted entirely to the HLP Team for evaluations of street residents, both in the field and jail. Given the high comorbidity of mental illness and the homeless population, having these resources in the field has improved response times for assisting those in crisis and created a more efficient pipeline for sharing information between case managers, service providers, and first responders.  

Pilot Jail-In-Reach Program: Santa Monica Police Department initiated a pilot jail-in-reach program in late 2018 to connect arrestees with housing, service providers, and behavioral healthcare. Using the county-funded Whole Person Care program and St. Josephs Center resources, outreach workers are invited into the jail to engage individuals prior to their release from the City jail. Initial data indicates that the likelihood of arrestees will follow through with obtaining services is increased when the initial intake process is done prior to release. Still in a pilot phase, however, SMPD would like to pursue a similar program using drug counselors to perform similar in-reach with methamphetamine users.

Implementing new care coordinating technology: In 2017, the City partnered with Akido Labs, a subsidiary of USCs D-Health Lab, and the Milken Institute to develop Project Connect. This is a mobile application that seeks to provide near-real-time communication between first responders (SMPD and SMFD) and homeless case managers to strengthen coordination of care. The pilot was launched on February 19, 2019 for a 13-week trial. The project team will reconvene at the end of the pilot to determine the apps effectiveness in changing staff behavior in the field through increased communication and coordination of care.

Animal Support Services: The Citys Animal Services Shelter temporarily shelters companion animals of people experiencing homelessness who must be temporarily hospitalized due to physical or behavioral health crisis. The shelter has also supported animals for owners transitioning into housing and employment opportunities. Costs for these services are currently absorbed by the department, however there is prospect for private philanthropy to help expand this service.

The Santa Monica Fire Departments Community Response Unit (CRU): Launched in January 2019, the goal of the CRU is to create innovative ways to engage and assist Santa Monicas most vulnerable populations. These include people experiencing homelessness, vulnerable housed adults, people with mental illness, people with substance use disorder, and high utilizers of public safety services. Effective response for these vulnerable individuals requires SMFD to act outside of its normal emergency model. Achieving this goal will improve the safety, health, and wellbeing of these populations and improve the availability of our fire engines and rescue ambulances. The CRU will focus on four areas to achieve results: Response, Education, Outreach, and Prevention.

Alternative Behavioral Health Care Facilities: The emergence of alternative behavioral health care facilities across the region show promising practice in increasing access to care for persons in mental health and addiction crisis. As the City strengthens is response to behavioral health crisis, staff recommend conducting a feasibility study on the local need for such as facility within Santa Monica to relieve the strain on local emergency departments, time away from patrol for SMPD officers, and to keep people closer to their safety-net of friends, family, and social service advocates as they recover. At the same time, the City will continue to support a change in state law to allow SMFD to transport to such facilities so should one come online in Santa Monica in the future, SMFD will be able to transport patients.

 

Next Steps

·              Commit ongoing funding to the citys multidisciplinary teams including C3 and HMST. Staff will return to Council with a funding request during the FY2019-21 Biennial Budget Process to sustain and enhance these efforts.
 

·              Advocate for a change in state policy to authorize SMFD to transport non-medical emergencies to alternative care facilities such as the Exodus Recovery Psych Urgent Care Center in Culver City.
 

·              Continue funding for SMPDs pilot with McCormick Ambulance to transport persons with special needs to appropriate alternative care centers. This request will be made as a part of the biennial budget process.
 

·              Direct staff to explore feasibility options for developing a coordinated behavioral health response, including assessing the need to create a community-based behavioral health center in Santa Monica. Staff will be submitting a budget proposal under the Reduce Homelessness priority for a behavioral health consultant to conduct this feasibility study.
 

·              Outreach to the local hospitals and other key stakeholders to create a community ad-hoc behavioral health working group to strengthen communication, coordination of services, leverage financial resources, and advocate for legislative changes. 
 

·              Work with the City Attorneys Office to develop a mechanism for the City to receive private funding to support the purchase of or receive as a gift, a therapeutic van to provide field-based mental health triage and crisis stabilization services by October 2019. This van would be operated by the current multidisciplinary teams in partnership with LA County Department of Mental Health and SMFD.  
 

·              Partner with Friends of the Animal Shelter to secure private funding to expand support to pet owners experiencing homelessness who need temporary board and care for their companion animals.
 

·              Report back on the results of SMFDs CRU 6-month pilots with SMFDs recommendations on its next steps. SMFD will request ongoing funding for this program as part of the biennial budget process.

 

·              Expand the Akido Project Connect App users to additional City departments and homeless service providers.

 

Pillar Three: Maintain equitable access to safe, fun, and healthy open spaces

With over 600 unsheltered individuals spending some portion of their time on the streets, conflicts over open space usage are frequent, requiring unique skills and approaches to intervene and discern anti-social behaviors from respite and recreational behaviors permissible by all users.

In 2018, the City doubled down on its street outreach and engagement activities to address anti-social behaviors in public spaces. Specifically, Public Works, Library, Human Services, Big Blue Bus, and nonprofit partners worked with SMPD to collaborate on strategies to mitigate anti-social behaviors in key public spaces and create additional “no-wrong-door” opportunities for service connections. These efforts leveraged ongoing collaborative models such as the HLP Teams partnership with West Coast Care (WCC) to provide outreach on the beach and in Tongva and Palisades Parks, offering referrals to shelter and other resources, emergency clothing, bus tokens and other support. A primary focus is Project Homecoming through which WCC reconnects those experiencing homelessness with family. Through these efforts, resources are deployed to key spaces where people experiencing homelessness gather to increase opportunities for service connection and mitigate the impact of homelessness on the wellbeing of the community. The Citys practices are in alignment with LAHSAs “Guiding Principles and Practices for local response to Unsheltered Homelessness,” recommended best-practices for municipal engagement adopted by the LAHSA Commission on February 28, 2019.

 

Promising Practices

Open space promising practices arose out of Councils one-time funding and were described in detail in the March 13th Info item to Council. Therefore, they are listed here only by name and abbreviated description.

·              Launching of the C3 Multidisciplinary Outreach Team. Provides mobile health and clinical interventions and linkages to homeless services and housing to people experiencing homelessness in the Downtown Santa Monica area including Palisades, Tongva, and Reed Parks.

·              Homeless Outreach Services at the Library. An Outreach Specialist staffed by The People Concern provides onsite outreach services including weekly office hours and special events to engage people experiencing homelessness in nontraditional ways to increase engagement. This service will soon be enhanced with the hiring of an as-needed social worker position by spring 2019.

·              Expansion of the Library Service Officers. The additional LSO hires allowed the department to educate and enforce the new guidelines among all patrons to maintain a safe, inclusive and learning environment. LSOs work closely with SMPDs HLP Team and onsite Outreach Specialist to connect people to homeless, Veteran, and mental health services. 

·              Incident Tracking on Big Blue Bus. In 2018, Big Blue Bus upgraded its incident tracker to better capture homelessness related data in response to growing concerns expressed by staff and riders. Big Blue Bus found that only 20% of all reported incidents were homeless related and the number of incidents that occurred out of over one million riders, were miniscule.

·              Expansion of the Homeless Liaison Program (HLP) Team. In January of 2018, the HLP team expanded from six to eight full-time officers, along with a Department of Mental Health Clinician and a sergeant. In the summer of 2018, HLP went from five to seven-day-per-week coverage.

·              Relocated street feeding operation indoors. In late 2018, Food Not Bombs partnered with Salvation Army to transition their street feeding program from the 3rd Street Promenade to an indoor, sit-down setting. West Coast Care provides onsite outreach services including referrals to Winter Shelter, Project Homecoming, and intake at St. Josephs Homeless Services Center. The inside meal is hosted every Thursday, averaging 100 participants each week.

 

Next Steps

·              Continue funding for multidisciplinary teams. Continue funding to the C3 team to expand the current contract and explore additional funding to create a new C3 team possibly focused on the beach. This request will be made as part of the biennial budget process.
 

·              Expand the number of HLP Team Officers. The HLP Team is scheduled to grow to ten officers in the first quarter of 2019.
 

·              Continue services at the Library. The Library is targeting to fill the as-needed social worker position by April 2019 and secure ongoing funding for the additional LSOs and as-needed social worker position. This request will be made as a part of the biennial budget process. More consistent services and availability of resources will allow the Library to more directly serve some of our most vulnerable visitors through outreach, referrals, and case management.
 

·              Increase Beach Outreach Coordination. Strengthen relationship between West Coast Care and businesses along Ocean Walk to increase engagement and homeless service connection.

 

Pillar Four: Strengthen regional capacity to address homelessness

The regional landscape has shifted significantly since Council first prioritized taking a leadership role in regional efforts to address homelessness as a strategic goal in 2015. Voters in the City of Los Angeles approved Proposition HHH in November 2016, a 10-year housing bond dedicated to building up to 10,000 new units of affordable housing, supportive housing, and homeless facilities. The County of Los Angeles voters approved Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax that is anticipated to generate at least $355 million a year until 2027, to provide supportive services and leverage housing opportunities across the Countys 88 cities through a supply rental subsidies, landlord incentives, and housing retention supportive services. In 2018, approximately $1B was allocated to addressing homelessness in the L.A. County region through local, state, and federal funding placing 24,998 people into interim housing, 20,446 into permanent housing, and preventing 6,026 from falling into homelessness. Approximately 1,500 new units of interim housing and nearly 3,000 new units of permanent supportive and affordable housing have come online or in development since 2017.

This extraordinary collaboration between LA City and LA County has incentivized other jurisdictions including the “Big 11” large cities in California and the State to join the conversation and invest additional resources and ideas to address the growing homelessness crisis. The State allocated $500M in one-time surplus funding to form and implement the Homeless Emergency Assistance Program (HEAP). Governor Gavin Newsoms 2019-20 Budget proposal unveiled in January 2019 includes $1.3B in one-time general fund dollars to support an aggressive new approach to spur housing development to address the states affordability crisis and promote economic growth.

Santa Monica has been a direct recipient of these efforts through the expanded investment in the regional Coordinated Entry System (CES). The CES aligns the Single Adult, Family, and Youth Systems into a seamless, collaborative, county-wide platform for housing and service delivery to homeless households. St. Joseph Center leads the region-wide Coordinated Entry System collaborative for L.A. Countys Service Planning Area 5 (which encompasses Santa Monica and the Westside) for both Individuals and for Families. The collaborative encourages cities, L.A. County, and service providers to leverage their shared resources to end homelessness, improve coordination among participating agencies, and increase the number of homeless people who obtain housing. In 2018, 725 people engaged in Santa Monica were entered into the countywide CES.

In February 2018, the City received a $70,000 grant from United Way and the County Homeless Initiative to develop a flexible training curriculum to deepen the publics understanding of the regional homelessness crisis from the perspective of outreach workers and persons with lived experience, and to educate on best practices for engagement to multiply the Citys efforts.  The first training videos have been produced and posted to the Citys YouTube channel.  A robust communications campaign will engage a broad range of stakeholderssuch as residents, landlords, businesses, and charitable organizationsand will allow core modules to be shared with neighboring communities. These grant funds have been fully expended.   

By 2023, the City should also begin to experience relief as new homeless facilities and housing opportunities supported by Proposition HHH and Measure H begin to come online. These include an additional 200+ interim housing beds in Venice, Brentwood (VA Campus), and Westwood (West L.A. Armory) and over 400 new units of supportive housing by 2024. The City of Malibu has also opened a new homeless service center to better coordinate referrals to local services. Safe Parking L.A. opened a new site in the parking lot of West L.A. City Hall. The potential of these expanded services and the potential housing pipeline should be integrated into the Citys homelessness strategy moving forward.

The Senior Advisor and the Council Office & Legislative Affairs Liaison will continue to work with public partners at all levels of government and the Westside Cities Council of Governments (WSCCOG) to ensure the Westside receives its fair-share of new funding. Currently the City is working with WSCCOG to develop a needs assessment to better understand the homelessness housing and services gap in SPA 5 required to effectively move the needle on local homelessness. Countywide, 24,000 people are in the Coordinate Entry System waiting to be matched to a housing unit. However there are only 9,600 available permanent housing opportunities and 8,649 interim housing opportunities to meet this demand. A better understanding of the local gap will enable the City and WSCCOG members to better advocate for private, state, and federal resources for local providers so that they can meet the growing demand created through increased outreach and engagement services. 

 

The expansion of interim housing capacity in neighboring communities creates an opportunity for the City to reimagine the Santa Monica Shelter (SAMOSHEL) to better meet local needs. Built under a 1994 emergency ordinance, the current facility is a sprung-tent structure that was originally built as a temporary facility to meet the regional homeless needs. Since 1994, the needs of residents placed in SAMOSHEL have become more complex requiring new design, smaller client-staff ratios, and flexibility to accommodate personal belongings, companion animals, and more. The reimagined SAMOSHEL would not be another emergency shelter, but a new facility that reflects the needs of the City and, todays homeless population. Ideally, the reimagined SAMOSHEL would house an interim housing program with specialized capacity to support set-aside beds for first responders and outreach teams, and integrated new supportive housing residences. Initial first steps to the reimagined process include developing a community participation strategy to shape a new program model and assist exploring potential new sites.  Replacing SAMOSHEL with a new permanent facility reflecting best practices is realistically a 3-5 year process.  Staff recommends that the current facility needs of SAMOSHEL be addressed to extend the lifespan of the temporary housing for approximately five years while the City undergoes the process to design based on best practices, community input, and users.  

 

Promising Practices

We Are Santa Monica: We Are Santa Monica is a community engagement campaign dedicated to joining neighbors, local nonprofits, businesses, and local organizations to create a stronger community for all. We see the needs of all the people in our city and inviting our community to learn more about the work happening across Santa Monica and invite them to get involved. This has been a successful vehicle to inform constituents about the Citys homelessness efforts that lead to engagement opportunities with local homeless service providers.

Homelessness Steering Committee: The Homelessness Steering Committee is an all-volunteer effort led by civic leaders Bill Parent, Chair of the Santa Monica Social Services Commission, John Maceri, Executive Director of The People Concern, and Kathleen Rawson, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. The Steering Committee meets with the community quarterly and accomplishes its work through four subcommittees including: Advocacy, Public Safety, Volunteerism, and Open Spaces. In 2019, the Committee will streamline its activities to more strongly focus on advocacy and volunteerism. 

Westside Cities Council of Government (WSCCOG): The WSCCOG is a vehicle through which the City champions regional solutions and problem-solving in tandem with the leadership of neighboring communities. The Senior Advisor represents the WSCCOG on the Regional Homeless Advisory Committee- a regional body of 58 cross-sector stakeholders. In 2018 the Homelessness Committee conducted an asset map of all current homeless programs and facilities. This report is being refined. Once complete it will provide a foundation for a Westside Cities Homelessness Strategic Plan that will include a housing and services needs assessment.

State and Federal Policy Agenda: City staff worked closely with the Citys state and federal lobbyists to advocate for funding and policies to ease the burden of homelessness in Santa Monica. In 2019, staff will advance a formal policy agenda to engage diverse stakeholders in championing legislation that furthers Councils policy priority of reducing homelessness.

Increased Inter-Regional Collaboration: In 2018, the City of Santa Monica increased its presence in inter-regional conversations with the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles to shape emerging policies such as best-practice street-engagement strategies for cities, 2019-20 priorities for Measure H Funding Allocation, review and feedback on LAHSAs HEAP Funding Spending Plan, and the passage of interim housing facilities standard. In 2019, the three entities will work closely to support citing of new homeless programs in neighboring communities outside of Santa Monica and to ensure that local nonprofits have adequate new resources to build capacity to meet growing demand created by expansion of homelessness services (i.e. staffing, adequate program space, staff training).

 

Next Steps

·              Advocate for a Westside Homelessness Strategic Planning Process: Work through the WSCCOGs Homelessness Committee to create Westside Cities Homelessness Strategic Plan that includes a housing and services needs assessment, recommendations on where to site new housing developments, and estimated costs. 

·         Reimagine SAMOSHEL. Staff seek direction from Council to have staff look at a variety of sites for the future replacement of SAMOSHEL and develop a community engagement plan to involve the community with agreement to return to Council with recommendations. 

·         Develop of a transparent state and federal policy agenda. In collaboration with the Homelessness Steering Committee, the City will develop the policy agenda by the end of March and work with the Office of Communications to distribute to the community with a call-to-action.

·         Explore the creation of community foundation to support innovation. Work with the City Attorneys Office to explore options to streamline receipt of private funding to support homeless innovation projects and regional efforts.

·              Launch the Online Homelessness Training Curriculum: The initial modules are completed. The City will develop a strategy to release and distribute the first in the series by spring 2019.

·              Continue the We Are Santa Monica efforts: Continue publicizing the Citys collective homelessness strategy and progress through the We Are Santa Monica platform.

·              Continue support and encouragement for the Homeless Steering Committee: Staff will continue to provide administrative and logistical support to the Steering Committee.

 

Conclusion

In 2018, the City strengthened its historic approach to addressing homelessness through increasing its capacity by leveraging additional departmental expertise and resources; while at the same time increasing collaboration with regional partners. While the numbers slightly increased in the 2019 Annual Homeless Count, the numbers decreased or remained stable in areas where there were targeted interventions. Through doubling down on outreach efforts, staff made over 34,520 contacts with people experiencing homelessness, connecting to housing and supportive services when resources were available.

The City of Santa Monica is at an exciting juncture to explore how it can increase protection for housed Santa Monicans at risk of homelessness; continue to identify and engage persons experiencing behavioral health crisis; smartly deploy outreach resources to open spaces based on data to improve well-being for all; and how to support the expansion of regional capacity as new interim and permanent housing resources come online in neighboring communities.

Over the coming year, staff would like to report back to Council on a quarterly basis through updates of individual departmental progress and collective impact. Staff will coordinate through the City Managers Office on this effort.

 

Financial Impacts & Budget Actions:

On August 8, 2017 Council authorized the City Manager to modify agreement #10291 with OPCC for operation of the Homeless Multidisciplinary Street Team (HMST), resulting in a 3 year amended agreement with a total amount not-to-exceed $1.65 million, consisting of $1.05 million in City general funds and up to $600,000 in grant funding from LA County Board of Supervisors District 3 (SD3) (Attachment F). In that same staff report, Council authorized the City Manager to accept a grant award in the amount of $300,000 from SD3 for HMST, and to accept all grant renewals. As of the date of this report, a total of $1.35 million has been disbursed to OPCC. On January 31, 2019, the City and the County executed an amendment to renew the SD3 grant for one additional year and for an additional amount of $300,000, making available the full not-to-exceed amount of $1.65 million. The renewal requires the following FY2018-19 budget changes:

 

FY2018-19 Grant Budget Changes

Establish Revenue Budget

Appropriate Funds

Account Number(s)

Amount

Account Number(s)

Amount

20400001.405470

$      300,000

20400001.555930

$      300,000

 

If the Supervisors grant is renewed and awarded for future periods, budget changes will be included in subsequent year budgets, contingent on Council budget approval.

 

Meeting History

Mar 26, 2019 5:30 PM  City Council Regular Meeting
draft Draft