Forty of Santa Monica’s most vulnerable homeless — those who have been without a home the longest and are most likely to die — are off the city’s streets.
This comes about eight months after Santa Monica created a service registry of the city’s most chronically homeless through extensive surveying and demographic data.
Out of 282 people who were found sleeping outside in the early morning hours earlier this year and identified as chronically homeless in Santa Monica, 131 were identified as “vulnerable” and most likely to die on the streets.
Nineteen of the 131 vulnerable homeless were veterans.
Today, 40, or 31 percent, of those vulnerable homeless — most of whom have been on the streets for 11 years or more — are safe and now in permanent or temporary housing or treatment, said Julie Rusk, the city’s human services manager.
The remaining individuals have been assigned to case managers with local agencies for follow-up and support, Rusk said.
Santa Monica City Councilman Bobby Shriver expressed concern that only four of the 19 veterans are currently engaged in some kind of treatment and none are in permanent housing.
“I just have to say that I’m horrified that the VA [Veterans Administration] has not been able to reach these vets who have given them their names — and these people are classified as likely to die on the streets,” he said. “I’m a little stunned.”
In July, Santa Monica received a grant of over $1 million from Los Angeles County through the initiation of County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
OPCC (formerly Ocean Park Community Center) and Step Up On Second — both social service organizations in Santa Monica — will use those funds to house over 70 of the additional homeless people listed in the service registry.
Contracts have already been awarded and the programs are now launching, said Rusk.
HOMELESS COMMUNITY COURT UPDATE — The city’s Homeless Community Court has also made great strides, officials say.
Launched in February 2007, the court, whose judge is Bobby Tillmon, has helped 142 participants.
It serves the chronically homeless of Santa Monica — home to approximately 2,000 homeless people on any given day — by providing “therapeutic justice.”
Of these homeless people, approximately 20 to 40 percent are chronically homeless — having lived on the streets for many years — cycling repeatedly through law enforcement and the criminal justice system, according to officials.
This becomes a vicious circle and is often referred to as the “revolving door” effect.
The homeless court’s goal is to end that vicious circle by resolving the warrants and minor crime issues of the chronically homeless — such as tickets for jaywalking and loitering — and to compel them to seek city services.
Its goal is also to help the chronically homeless “get stability in their lives and be independent — instead of putting them in jail, which is not the prescription they need,” said Yaroslavsky, whose Third Supervisorial District includes Santa Moni- ca. “A regular criminal court can’t address the unique needs of a homeless person the way a homeless court can.”
The homeless served by the court “have their jail time waived and their warrants canceled in exchange for going into some kind of rehab service program,” Yaroslavsky said.
The court is funded through Los Angeles County and developed in partnership with the Superior Court, the Public Defender’s office, local service provid- ers and various city departments, Rusk said.
“We’ve seen many times that enforcement can be a gateway to services, and this project [Ö] has been an effort that’s reached 142 participants,” said Rusk. “Forty-seven percent of those 142 participants have moved into temporary or permanent housing and 55 percent of those participants have successfully graduated from the program.”
However, the Homeless Community Court is funded only through December.
“While we’re actively working to continue that funding, we’re hopeful that the county will be able to come through to identify additional funding,” Rusk said. “To date, we do not have a commitment for renewed funding.”
When asked by Shriver if the community court would close if the county did not renew its funding, Rusk said yes, but she noted that the city had been working closely with the county on the issue.
“We’re down to the wire here,” Rusk acknowledged.
But she added, confidently, that after very recent talks with the county, “It’s looking like the project will be refunded. We just have not gotten a final answer yet.”