Homelessness updates and information for our community


March 21, 2022 12:04 PM

by Margaret Willis

The number of people identified as homeless has reached unprecedented levels, due to lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, mental illness and addiction. One in 3.5 homeless people in this country live in California, and one in 2.5 live in Los Angeles County. It is truly a national and regional crisis. While Santa Monica has seen a smaller increase in homelessness than neighboring areas, the impacts of those struggling to live on our streets are felt by everyone.

In response, Santa Monica deployed outreach teams that assess homeless people and connect them to services and shelters, built affordable housing, and funded local nonprofits to provide services, all in the ultimate goal of obtaining permanent housing.

Recent progress:

  • More than 16,700 contacts with homeless people
  • More than 230 people connected in temporary accommodation and 45 people connected in permanent accommodation
  • 134 new permanent affordable housing units opened in Santa Monica since 2020
  • Over $25 million in rental assistance received by over 1,600 Santa Monica households affected by COVID-19
  • Who lives homeless in LA County?
    The 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count indicated the following:

  • 580,466: homeless people in the United States
  • 161,548: Homeless people in California
  • 66,000: homeless people in Los Angeles County
  • 907: People experiencing homelessness in Santa Monica
  • 601: The number of people out of the 907 identified as homeless in Santa Monica
  • People experiencing homelessness in LA County in 2020:

  • 27% have a substance use disorder,
  • 25% have a serious mental illness, and
  • 41% have both a substance use disorder and a serious mental illness.
  • Two main systemic issues need to be addressed when considering homelessness: availability of accommodation and access to health care.

    In April 2021, there were 7,042 people waiting for permanent housing on the Westside, according to LAHSA. LAHSA also states that for the homeless services system to work effectively, there must be a 5:1 ratio (five permanent housing resources for every temporary housing bed). Currently, LA County operates on a 1:1 ratio, causing people to wait several months to years before obtaining permanent housing. In 2019, LAHSA estimated that, on a daily basis, 133 people were placed in housing while 150 people lost their homes.

    At Santa Monica, we have a two-pronged approach to solving this problem. First, we aim to prevent Santa Monica residents from becoming homeless, and second, we strive to increase affordable housing opportunities throughout the city.

    Surveys of unprotected people indicate that there is an urgent need for a holistic approach to mental and physical health care in LA County. Santa Monica is currently developing strategies that improve access to health care for those who need it. Recent efforts, such as the Community Response Unit, have been made to help meet these critical needs – there is more detail on what these programs entail in the following sections.
    Sources: HUD.gov, US Interagency Council on Homelessness and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA)

    What are the results of these efforts to address homelessness?
    Our many outreach programs coupled with county and city-funded efforts are making a difference by providing that immediate and consistent engagement and connection to services, treatment and housing, and at the same time we recognize that the regional challenge is important. Here are the results of our work:

  • In 2021, three City-funded multidisciplinary teams completed more than 11,000 contacts with people experiencing homelessness and provided direct medical or psychiatric services to 808 participants. Additionally, Public Safety personnel and Downtown Santa Monica Ambassadors have made 5,700 contacts with homeless people. To note: A person may have received several contacts over the course of a month or a year with the aim of connecting people to temporary or permanent housing or services, for example.

  • 237 people were served in local temporary housing programs and 45 participants were connected to permanent housing.

  • The Santa Monica Housing Authority supports 1,600 low-income households with vouchers for permanent housing. 104 new housing vouchers were obtained from the federal government and will help move people out of local shelters into permanent housing, and we recently celebrated the first person housed using these vouchers! We still need apartments in Santa Monica to help end homelessness. If you have an apartment available, please email [email protected] for more information.

  • 640 households impacted by COVID-19 received assistance through the Santa Monica Emergency Rental Assistance Program. 2,700 households have applied for the CA COVID-19 Rental Relief program and have received more than $25 million in assistance so far.

  • 134 new affordable housing units opened and helped increase the number of affordable housing units available, including 39 new apartments for seniors age 62 and older in Magnolia Village.

  • 1,155 households have benefited from homelessness prevention programs such as legal aid, flex funds and financial support for seniors to ensure that households remain housed. Efforts include approximately $80,000 donated to 45 households for moving costs, rent assistance and other interventions to secure and maintain housing through City Flex Funds, 590 Santa Monica residents received legal assistanceand 120 Homeless Community Court graduates obtained permanent accommodation. 400 low-income seniors received cash assistance to cover basic expenses such as food, groceries and health care.

  • 485 former Santa Monica residents homeless received services like case management to help people stay in their homes.
  • Funding has been secured and operations have been established for two therapy vans 24/7 which will roll out in the spring of 2022 in partnership with the LA County Department of Mental Health, expanding our ability to provide services to meet the specific needs of people in real-time mental health crisis. It is not exclusively for people experiencing homelessness and will be a resource used throughout the community.
  • To stay informed, visit santamonica.gov/topic-explainers/homelessness

    Please contact the following services for various situations:

  • 9-1-1: If someone is experiencing a medical emergency or there is an immediate threat to someone’s life or safety.
  • 2-1-1 Where LA-HOP.org: Submit a request for homeless outreach assistance using the LA Homeless Outreach portal.
  • (800) 854-7771: Contact the Department of Mental Health number if anyone is experiencing a psychiatric/mental crisis.
  • (310) 458-8491: For non-emergency police action in Santa Monica.
  • 3-1-1 Where [email protected]: Submit a request specific to Santa Monica for a service like garbage pickup.
  • Written by

    Marguerite Willis


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