The city of Santa Monica has experienced virtually no change from the previous year in the number of homeless persons living within its boundaries, citywide homeless count results show.

The 2011 Santa Monica Homeless Count, conducted over one night Jan. 26, found a total of 740 homeless individuals living in the city, compared with 742 in 2010. Last year’s count marked a 25 percent drop from 2007, when 999 homeless persons were identified in the city.

According to results released at the Social Services Commission meeting Feb. 28, there were 263 homeless individuals counted on the streets, 426 in shelters and institutions, and 51 in cars/encampents.

The street count identified no un-sheltered families, but of those living in shelters, 101 individuals, or 24 percent were identified as members of families.

On Jan. 26, approximately 200 Santa Monica volunteers participated in the largest homeless count in the country, conducted throughout Los Angeles County by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). Homeless counts are mandated every two years (on odd-numbered years) by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for all communities that receive federal homeless funds, but Santa Monica has conducted counts each of the past three years.

LAHSA is expected to release countywide findings in the fall, which may contribute to the results of the city of Santa Monica’s efforts. Incorporating the city’s findings in the context of the region and county may identify trends that are not evident by reviewing the city’s data alone, according to the human services division.

City officials said that given the economic stresses of the past several years, it is a testament to the efforts of the city and the local service providers that the number of homeless people has not increased.

The continued absence of families living on the streets and the continued reduction in people living in their vehicles can be attributed in part to the availability of homeless prevention assistance through federal stimulus funds received by the city in the fall of 2009, officials said. They added that the Eviction Prevention and Rehousing Assistance (EPRA) Program has helped over 100 Santa Monica residents from experiencing homelessness to date.

The city’s focus on permanent housing for chronically homeless residents through a Housing First model is another factor that officials say contributes to the “no net-gain” in the street homelessness count.

Santa Monica’s annual Homeless Count data is used to measure the city’s successes, identify challenges and help coordinate strategies and resources for ending homelessness. The count is also important to ensure the city receives a fair share of federal, state and county resources to provide critical services, officials said.

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