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City Revs Up for Annual Homeless Count

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Have Extra Room for the Holidays 2019

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By Jorge Casuso

January 13, 2020 -- Next Wednesday night, some 300 volunteers are expected to comb every Santa Monica street, alley and park as they attempt to count every homeless person living in the city.

The annual Homeless Census -- for which the City is seeking volunteers -- will provide a snapshot of who is living on the streets of the 8.3 square-mile city.

The count -- which takes place January 22 between 10:30 p.m. and 3 a.m. -- "wouldn’t be possible without the community coming together for one night for this point-in-time observation count," City officials said.

The numbers are "an indicator of how Santa Monica’s local strategies, in collaboration with LA County regional strategies, are working," officials said.

"Changes in the count offer opportunities to pilot new interventions or reinforce effective approaches to meet Council’s reaffirmed commitment to reducing homelessness."

In addition to the street count, the census gathers information from shelters, hospitals, motels and the city jail.

Last January, the census counted 985 homeless persons living in Santa Monica, up from 957 the previous year, or a 3 percent increase ("Santa Monica Homeless Count Shows Slight Increase," March 21, 2019).

Still, it was the highest number of homeless individuals counted in the beach city since 2007, when 999 persons were counted ("Santa Monica’s Homeless Population Dips Despite Hard Times," February 24, 2009).

For a city once dubbed "the home of he homeless," the population of those living on Santa Monica's streets has been rising at a slower rate than that of the Westside at large ("Westside Homeless Population Sees Dramatic Jump, Venice Tops List," July 30, 2019).

Westside communities saw a 20 percent rise in homelessness in 2019, with Venice's homeless population surpassing 1,000, although the community is less than half the size of Santa Monica.

Santa Monica has shifted its focus from providing emergency services to finding permanent places to live for the chronically homeless and connecting them to services ("City Program Helps Santa Monica's Chronically Homeless But Faces "Key Challenge," RAND Study Finds," June 5, 2019).

The City Council also voted last June to spend an additional $2 million over the next two years on its homeless outreach efforts ("Santa Monica to Boost Its Homeless Outreach Efforts," September 6, 2019).

Volunteers for the homeless count must be at least 18 years old, or 16 to 17 if each volunteer is accompanied by a parent or guardian.

All volunteers are required to sign a general liability waiver and photo release, organizers said. Many team assignments will require walking up to 2 to 3 miles.

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