Santa Monica, like other urban areas across Los Angeles County, is continuing to see a drop in the number of homeless people living within its borders, according to a recently released homeless count.

The 2010 Santa Monica Homeless Count conducted citywide January 27th found an overall decrease of 18.9 percent from last year in the number of homeless individuals on the streets. and in shelters and institutions within the city.

This year’s results are based on a one-year comparison, while the 2009 count showed an overall eight-percent reduction since 2007.

The effort, which involved over 200 participants, including over 160 volunteers and covered all 19 of the city’s census tracts, resulted in a “point-in-time” count of 742 homeless persons, city Human Services Division officials said.

Of those counted, 264 were tracked on the streets, 423 were in shelters and institutions, and 55 were in cars/encampments. Seventy-one percent of the individuals were found to be single, while

29 percent were members of families, the count results show.

The number of individuals identified in encampments dropped 68 percent from the previous year and the number of people living in cars decreased 59 percent from 2009.

Covering all of the 19 census tracts, a method first used in last year’s count, has allowed the city to more accurately compare results to 2009 and provide the most complete count findings to date, Human Services Division officials said. Last year, the city chose to begin conducting a citywide survey on an annual basis, an initiative that goes beyond federal requirements to conduct bi-annual counts.

The data will serve as a benchmark from which further reductions in homelessness will be tracked and the success of local efforts to reduce homelessness will be evaluated, they said.

Santa Monica’s drop in homelessness is consistent with findings in urban areas across the county over the past several years, which has been credited to changes in federal priorities, better data collection methods, and expanded access to affordable housing for homeless and at-risk households.

This reduction locally can be attributed to a number of factors,

including the city’s implementation of the Action Plan to Address Homelessness, better collaboration and coordination of services, new housing subsidies and rental assistance programs, as well as the Homeless Community Court and Project Homecoming, officials said.

Over the next six months, city officials said they will conduct additional analysis of this data, comparing it with data from service providers and regional partners to try to establish if this is truly a sustainable trend.

The homeless count is key to ensuring that the city receives a fair share of federal, state and county resources to provide critical services, officials noted.