In its effort to address homelessness in Santa Monica, the city has a new project in the works.
The city, with about 1,500 homeless on its streets on any given day, according to officials, is in the process of creating a service registry of its vulnerable homeless — those who are most likely to die on the streets.
A street count will be conducted in the early morning hours Friday, January 25th, by about 40 volunteers, including city staff and teams from nonprofit organizations, to document baseline number of homeless people. Each person encountered will later be surveyed.
Julie Rusk, Human Services manager for the City of Santa Monica, predicts a couple of hundred chronically homeless will be interviewed — the ones sleeping on the streets in the middle of the night.
The survey — created by Dr. Jim O’Connell, president of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program — will be conducted Sunday through Tuesday, January 27th to 29th.
Questions will be asked about physical health, mental health, drug and alcohol use and age, Rusk said.
Through the results of the survey, a “vulnerability score” will be produced.
“The survey assigns a score that expresses how likely they are to die on the streets,” Rusk said, noting that every homeless individual surveyed in Santa Monica will be ranked in a service registry.
Those that are most at risk for dying on the streets will receive a higher vulnerability score, and thus, top priority for housing and services.
“We think this is a really good opportunity and the vulnerability index is really an extraordinary tool that will help us refine our efforts to address chronic homelessness in Santa Monica,” Rusk said. “This is an approach that will triage our efforts.”
The project will cost the city about $12,000, Rusk said.
For about three and a half years, Santa Monica has had a Chronic Homeless Program, a collaborative effort of several city departments and local homeless service providers to reduce the number of chronically homeless living in Santa Monica.
Rusk believes a service registry of vulnerable homeless people in Santa Monica will “move us forward in the next phase of our work.”
Common Ground, a New York-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to end homelessness through innovative programs that transform people, buildings and communities, is helping the City of Santa Monica with coordination and training.
The organization has helped drastically reduce the number of homeless in New York City’s Times Square by counting and surveying the homeless and creating vulnerability indexes, and has replicated the approach in several other cities across the country.
It did the same for Skid Row’s Project 50, a three-year, $5.6-million pilot program designed to provide immediate housing and services for the 50 most vulnerable homeless living on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles.
In December, teams hit Los Angeles’s Skid Row to survey the homeless living there and identified those that were most at risk for dying on the streets.
Los Angeles is the sixth city that Common Ground has helped, and Santa Monica will be the seventh.
The organization will take all the data from the results of the surveys conducted in Santa Monica and compile a report that it will present to the community on Thursday, January 31st.
“We’ll take that information as we move forward in our chronic homeless project to make sure we’re really reaching the most vulnerable people, those most in need of getting off the streets,” Rusk said.