OPCC of Santa Monica has received a $1.08 million grant from the County of Los Angeles for the “Healthcare for Empowerment to Access Respite, Treatment and Housing” (Project HEARTH) program, in partnership with the Venice Family Clinic, St. John’s Health Center and Santa Monica-UCLA Hospital.

The county’s Homeless and Housing Program Fund awarded the grant to the social service organization for a three-year period beginning Tuesday, July 1st. The program will provide for a physician from the Venice Family Clinic to be stationed full-time at the OPCC Annenberg Access Center, and a permanent housing coordinator on the OPCC staff who will help clients find, obtain and remain in permanent housing.

OPCC was formerly known as the Ocean Park Community Center.

The program will help people leave chronic homelessness through the linkage of outreach, discharge planning and medical services as a strategy to access housing and services, according to OPCC.

“HEARTH links medical care to permanent housing, which will help homeless people accept assistance in getting off the street,” said John Maceri, executive director of OPCC. “The program also directly addresses the most critical barrier to permanent housing in Santa Monica — the shortage of affordable rental housing that results in property owners choosing to not participate in housing subsidy programs.

“HEARTH will put a full-time housing coordinator in place to work with property owners to promote acceptance of subsidized tenants, and to support successful landlord/tenant relationships.”

The project is based on the demonstrated success of the Venice Family Clinic’s 2007 Street Medicine pilot project in partnership with OPCC’s Outreach Team, which sent a physician out on the streets with a medical bag to engage chronically homeless individuals in services and motivate them to accept supportive services and a way off the streets.

“HEARTH will allow OPCC and Venice Family Clinic to help patients recover in housing rather than on the street, and give them the permanent housing opportunities that will benefit their health and welfare in the long term,” said LaTisha Starbuck, vice president of Mission and Ethics at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.

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