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Santa Monica to Boost Homeless Clean-Up Efforts

By Lookout Staff

December 20, 2023 -- A clean-up crew contracted by the City to remove waste and debris left behind by the homeless could be brought "in-house" with expanded hours next spring, according to City officials.

Deployed every Tuesday and Thursday since late September, the three-member Homeless Support Team (HoST) picked up 7.5 tons of trash in October and 30.7 tons in November as trash totals grow exponentially, City officials said.

HoST has visited 339 locations throughout Santa Monica, removing "encampment-related waste and debris in the city’s parks, beach, public spaces and facilities," said Jose "Jay" Aguilar, the City's custodial services administrator.

The team also helps the Police and Fire departments remove encampments, which have been producing an increasing amount of waste, Aguilar said.

"If you have noticed a sparkling clean area where an encampment or large debris field used to be, chances are you have them to thank for it," Aguilar said in a blog posted on the City's website Wednesday.

The effort could be expanded to Monday through Friday once the Pubic Works Department takes over the work from its contractor, Mariposa, officials said.

Made up of one crew leader and two maintenance workers, the HoST team "targets public spaces based on known 'hotspots,' complaints filed through the city’s 311 system, and field staff intel on areas of concern," Aguilar said.

The team also responds to police and fire requests for assistance in cleaning, hauling and sanitation efforts.

"This could involve breaking down an encampment, cleaning the public right of way or public facility, or addressing debris that is a public safety hazard in the eyes of police, the city manager or the City Council," Aguilar said.

To make HoST a permanent part of Public Works' Promenade Maintenance Division, the City must first buy the necessary vehicles, which has proved to be a "lengthy process due to supply chain shortages," Aguilar said.

The City will then need to hire a dedicated staff that must "receive enhanced training to keep themselves and the community safe," he said.

The training includes "ladder, workplace, respiratory and bloodborne pathogen safety training as well as training in de-escalation, Fentanyl and Naloxone use (and) homeless cleanup hazards."

HoST is funded through voter-approved Measure CS, which provides an estimated $4.1 million a year to address homelessness and public safety by raising the bed tax on hotels, motels and home shares.

The measure was overwhelming approved by Santa Monica voters in November 2020 with 27,229 yes votes (73.87 percent) and 9,631 no votes (26.13 percent).

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