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Council Set to Beef Up Park Ambassador Program and Help Stressed-Out Part-time Workers

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By Jorge Casuso

January 9, 2020 -- The City Council on Tuesday is expected to extend an ambassador program at Reed Park, expand a program for stressed out employees and beef up software for its housing division.

The consent calendar items -- which total nearly $700,000 -- are normally approved by the Council with little or no discussion.

The proposed $206,640 contract extension with Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM), would extend the six-month ambassador pilot program at Reed Park through June 30.

The pilot program was launched August 1 after neighbors and visitors complained the homeless had overtaken the park at the edge of Downtown, making them fear for their safety.

The pilot program came less than two months after a new luxury hotel opened across the street ("Santa Monica's First New Luxury Hotel in More than a Decade Opens Downtown," June 28, 2019).

"The pilot has been a success," staff said in its report recommending that the contract be extended.

"Overall, feedback for the pilot program has been positive and data indicates that the Ambassadors are a key component of the multi-pronged approach to maintain equitable access to safe, fun, and healthy open spaces," staff wrote.

The ambassadors are "uniformed sidewalk concierges" who are stationed near the public restrooms and roam the park to welcome and provide information to visitors and report maintenance and public safety issues, staff said.

One "hospitality ambassador" and one "restroom ambassador" work during the daytime, with a second "hospitality ambassadors" added during evenings and weekends, staff said. They provide 228 service hours a week.

Since the pilot program was launched, there has been an increase in the amount of trash and debris collected and a decrease in calls for police service, staff said.

Also on Tuesday's consent calendar is a proposal to switch the company providing an "Employee Assistance Program" that is part of the benefits package for the City's full-time workforce of 2,200 and expand it to as-needed workers.

"The focus of the service is to give staff who may be experiencing work or home life stresses the opportunity for rapid access to help with counseling, family and legal assistance and other tools to ensure their ability to perform their public service duties," staff said.

The program provides five free face-to-face outpatient counseling sessions a year, computerized cognitive behavioral therapy and a 24-hour hotline staffed by licensed counselors for crisis intervention, staff said.

It also provides a 25 percent discount on legal services, financial planning consultation and referrals to services that include child care, elder care, parenting issues, relocation aid and adoption assistance.

The proposed three-year contract with Magellan Health Services of California, Inc. will cost $169,000 and has two one-year renewal options.

The Council on Tuesday also is expected to approve a $52,495 modification to its agreement with MRI Software, LLC "for additional software support and services" for the City's Housing Authority.

The agreement would be modified to add one-time custom programming that will "efficiently implement" the waitlists for Section 8 and Preserving Our Diversity, a program that provides cash subsidies to vulnerable low-income seniors in rent control apartments.

The contractor also will implement a new feature that "will reduce the cost and time required to run background checks for prospective participants," staff said.

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