A study session of the “Evaluation of Santa Monica’s Continuum of Care and Strategic Five Year Plan” took place at the Santa Monica City Council meeting Tuesday, January 23rd, and the council requested that city staff return with further discussion of some of the study’s recommendations.

The report was written and performed by Martha Burt and Laudan Aron of The Urban Institute, a nonpartisan economic and social policy research organization in Washington, D.C.

Burt and Aron provided a presentation to the City Council at its previous meeting January 9th, but action by the council was delayed until the January 23rd meeting to allow the council time to study the 169-page report, which is available to the public.

Additional copies were available to pick up in the lobby outside the council meeting for those who were interested.

The main six points that the council requested that city staff return with further discussion on were:

— how the city and other stakeholder groups would establish roundtables, a forum for discussing and resolving issues;

— results of exploring functionality and design concepts for better client tracking data systems;

— consideration of permanent supportive housing solutions, including sober living and Housing First models;

— ways to engage the region and increase homeless support/service capacity;

— creation by staff of a public education campaign; and

— continued support of previous efforts in fair share legislation advocacy.

Councilmam Kevin McKeown made the motion to focus on five primary areas and Councilman Bobby Shriver seconded the motion after asking for some clarification on key points.

Mayor Richard Bloom asked to add the sixth area of “continuing previous support efforts in fair-share legislation advocacy,” and McKeown was supportive of that addition.

“We need to continue to be a catalyst for change,” Bloom said. “Our programs are well respected. We are seen as a model.”

Bloom, like Shriver, pointed out that, for the homeless situation to be resolved, surrounding communities would have to “pull together on this” as well.

Some council members expressed interest in Housing First, a new model of homeless services that involves moving people directly from the streets into permanent housing, accompanied by intensive services, known as permanent supportive housing, said Urban Institute officials.

“It’s extremely important for us to explore,” said Bloom of Housing First, pointing out that “lots of federal resources go there.”

Housing First is flexible and independent, so people “get housed and stay housed.” It has been shown to be very effective with those who are chronically homeless and have multiple disabilities, and it is considered “approximately cost neutral,” said Urban Institute officials.

Councilman Bob Holbrook said he felt hopeless and helpless on how to deal with the homeless situation in Santa Monica.

Holbrook thinks that, before anything else, the council should decide how many homeless people they are going to try to help.

“What is our goal?” he said. “I think we have to bite the bullet and make a policy decision — we set a goal of what we plan to accomplish.”

Holbrook asked what would happen after the homeless in Santa Monica were housed and new ones moved in. Councilwoman Pam O’Connor agreed with Holbrook.

“What happens next?” O’Connor asked. However, O’Connor was very interested in the concept of Housing First, as well as other models of housing for the homeless.

“I think it’s important to remember this can be solved,” said Shriver. “This is a political problem. We must prod the elected officials of this region. It’s not rocket science.”

Shriver pointed out that solving the homeless problem will be a challenge for everyone, but that “it is possible.”