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Santa Monica’s Downtown Merchants to Meet with Police on Rising Homelessness Problem
By Niki Cervantes
September 6, 2017 -- Merchants in Santa Monica’s downtown will meet with police and others this month as the community tries to respond to the largest increase in homeless people in a decade, much of the population concentrated downtown and along the beach.
The session between Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. and local police and the City’s Human Services Division on September 19 will detail the ways in which Santa Monica is coping with the 26 percent increase in homeless people this year living on the streets, the beach, in parks and encampments.
Merchants also will get practical advice on how “best to handle an unruly patron who may be suffering from mental illness or drug and or alcohol addiction,” said Kevin Herrera, a DTSM spokesperson.
The 2017 count of the homeless population in Santa Monica totaled 921 people, reversing a decade of stagnant or declining numbers ("Santa Monica's Homeless Population Highest in a Decade," May 10, 2017).
In Santa Monica, the biggest concentration of homeless people -– or 513 individuals –- were downtown or living on the beach.
DTSM’s “ambassadors” -- volunteers who help the public as representatives of downtown and keep an eye out for potential problems -- are especially crucial in helping the City as it tries to dig deeper into the population, Herrera said.
The ambassadors are “often the first one’s called when there is a disturbance at a Downtown business,” he said.
“Ambassadors do their best to deescalate a situation, and then notify law enforcement if necessary,” Herrera said.
In “constant contact” with law enforcement and City support services, the ambassadors also help “guide (homeless individuals) towards supportive services and housing,” Herrera said.
Using donations left by Downtown visitors as part of the Dolphin Change Program, DTSM, Inc. gives an average of $10,000 a year to local social service agencies tasked with helping the homeless population.
It also contracts with Santa Monica-based Chrysalis to provide custodial jobs to those who are working their way out of homelessness, Herrera said.
Last month, the City Council approved a three-year contract of up to $1.65 million to a local nonprofit to send specialized mental health, medical and substance abuse professionals into the streets for faster intervention ("Santa Monica City Council Awards Contract for Homeless Street Team," August 15, 2017).
The September 19 meeting is at 11 a.m. in the DTSM office at 1351 Third Street Promenade, Suite 201.
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