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Santa Monica’s Homeless Population Continued to Rise in 2018 but at Slower Pace

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

March 7, 2018 -- After a 26 percent jump in Santa Monica’s homeless population last year, the City said Tuesday the total had increased again this year, but at a much slower pace.

Overall, the total homeless population rose by 36 individuals to 957 people, up from of 921 persons counted in the 2017, or a 4 percent increase ("Santa Monica's Homeless Population Highest in a Decade," May 10, 2017).

But those who lived on the streets, along the beach or in vehicles or encampments jumped 11 percent to 646 people compared to 581 last year, representing the 67.5 percent of the homeless population which lives in Santa Monica unsheltered.

As has traditionally been the case, the city’s homeless population was concentrated in the downtown area, including on its beaches, officials said.

For those involved in dealing with the City’s homeless issue, it was hard to pinpoint what the small increase in that population signified.

Was it an anomaly -- a blip after a record-breaking rise in homelessness in Santa Monica -- or the first sign of progress after a whirlwind of promises in the months since then to treat the problem?

Last year's dramatic increase in Santa Monica’s homeless population mirrored the jump in regional homelessness revealed a short time later by the Los Angeles County Homeless Services Authority (which had conducted its own count in January).

Countywide results this year will not be available until May, a spokesperson said.

The Authority’s 2017 count revealed a 23 percent increase in homelessness, rising to 57,794 people, most of whom were living on streets and had begun to populate far-flung parts of the region, as well as Los Angeles City’s core.

Santa Monica’s 2018 point-in-time homeless count -- conducted on the night of January 24 -- found 542 people living on the streets, compared to 489 people in the 2017 count, an 11 percent increase.

Another 104 individuals lived in vehicles or encampments, up from 92 people last year, a 13 percent rise.

At the same time, those in shelters or housed in emergency motel rooms decreased, from 335 people in 2017 to 294 individuals this year, or a 12 percent decline.

The decline appeared to “indicate that some people assigned to beds did not utilize them on that night,” the City said in an initial analysis.”

“Shelter occupancy was close to 95 percent,” the City’s report said.

Overall demographics of the City’s homeless population remained mostly the same from the previous year, based on surveys taken during the day of a smaller sampling of homeless people.

The results show most (58 percent) said they were between 25 and 54 years of age, with another third (or 33 percent) who said they were 55 years or age or older.

Young people, from the ages of 18 to 24, comprised only 4 percent of those questioned.

Nearly two-thirds of those in the sampling were male and 23 percent were female. Veterans accounted for 12 percent.

Those who had been in Santa for five years or more totaled 36 percent, and those in the city from one year to five years accounted for 29 percent. Another 27 percent had been in Santa Monica less than a month.

Nearly half had lived elsewhere in the county before arriving, and about a third were from out of state.

To get to Santa Monica, 54 percent said they took a bus. Another 13 percent arrived via Expo, about the same number of homeless people who said they biked or walked to the city.


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