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By Zina Josephs
Regarding the February 23, 2021 City Council discussion of efforts to address homelessness in Santa Monica, I re-sent a letter to the Council that I had written in 2019 regarding "The People Concern" (aka OPCC), which receives City funding and operates SAMOSHEL and other facilities in Santa Monica.
I accompanied David to the intake interview at PATH, and was pleasantly surprised to find the staff well-educated, well-informed, and compassionate -- quite a contrast to the staff at SAMOSHEL.
After living for some months at the PATH facility, which was clean and well-maintained, and which provided hot meals cooked on site for the residents (again, all in contrast to SAMOSHEL), he applied for permanent housing at Silvercrest Senior Residence at 1530 5th Street in Santa Monica, which is operated by the Salvation Army.
The Silvercrest website used to state that they didn't accept housing vouchers in payment of rent.
But through the efforts of advocate Olga Zurawska, the Legal Aid Foundation, and the City Attorney's Office, Silvercrest was forced to remove that statement from its website, as it is illegal in Santa Monica to refuse to accept Section 8 vouchers ("New Santa Monica Law to Prohibit Discrimination Against Section 8 Tenants," May 8, 2015).
After three years at SAMOSHEL, during which time their caseworkers did little to help David Morris, and more months at PATH, he was finally able to find permanent housing.
June 8, 2019
To: Measure H Citizens' Oversight Advisory Board
Dispensing taxpayer dollars to providers without any fiscal accountability or meaningful performance reviews, especially if those providers engage in violations of the clients' civil rights, seems to be a misuse and waste of public funding, or even fraud.
I urge the Advisory Board to recommend the following:
1) effective monitoring reviews -- not just the type of paper shuffling that LAHSA does, with no consequences for repeated negative findings,
2) program oversight which ensures that clients actually receive a) effective housing case management, and b) protection of their civil rights,
3) creation of a “shelter monitoring committee” similar to the one in San Francisco, to provide clients access to objective advocacy, and
4) incorporating the same ACLU recommendations issued for Orange County shelters into Los Angeles County program standards, as the same problems exist in LA shelters.
Below is some correspondence I had with the Santa Monica City Council regarding the experience I’ve had with a client of OPCC/The People Concern, David Morris, who has been living in the OPCC Samoshel tent (transitional housing) for more than two years.
David entered the Samoshel Respite Bed Program as a homeless person with acute anemia (which required four blood transfusions) and then, as a result of a trip and fall on the wet cement Samoshel floor, shattered one of the vertabra in his lower spine. For the last two years, he has urgently needed surgery, but his doctors won’t okay the surgery until he has permanent housing.
David has spoken at meetings of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Santa Monica City Council, Social Services Commission, and at other Commission meetings in Santa Monica about some of the problems at Samoshel, including non-compliance with ADA requirements, poor food, lack of cleanliness, insufficient heating and cooling (temperatures ranging from 61 to 80 degrees during the day), a sealed emergency exit, etc., as well as essentially “warehousing” clients rather than working efficiently to find permanent housing for them.
I have attended several meetings with David and OPCC staff, and more recently with David and St. Joseph Center staff. It is like night and day. The St. Joseph Center staff members I’ve met are educated, well-trained, hard-working, and treat their clients in an empathetic manner.
Below is a description of what happened the day David was evicted from OPCC’s Samoshel on April 18, 2019.
Sent to Santa Monica City Council and City Manager on April 19, 2019:
David Morris, who has been in the "transitional" housing program at SAMOSHEL for two years, phoned me Thursday morning (April 18).
I went over and tried to talk to the staff. They refused to let us in the building, but rather made us stand out on the asphalt to hold the conversation.
The only concession was that, if David didn't remove his belongings by 1 PM, the staff would take everything to the motel rather than put it out on the sidewalk.
The answer, over and over again, was that they "don't discuss program matters." And since SAMOSHEL is a "program" and not a "residence," there are no regulations.
My understanding is that once you live someplace for more than 30 days, you have some rights. But not at SAMOSHEL.
What's ironic is that David had to call the police a couple weeks ago because one of the other SAMOSHEL residents kept threatening him with violence. But David is the one being thrown out, while the other person stays.
Thursday afternoon, David went to the police headquarters to request their help in going back into SAMOSHEL to make sure none of his belongings had been left behind. Several officers went and escorted him inside.
April 25, 2019
3) David had an appointment at the OPCC Access Center (adjacent to Samoshel) with his primary care physician this week, but was denied entry to the Access Center. (An FOSP member accompanied David, so we know that happened.)
I've been told that he has gone on drug binges before -- in fact, he described to you some of the other non-OPCC shelters where he stayed -- but has always been allowed back into Samoshel. He has threatened David Morris with violence so many times that David finally called the SMPD, and an investigation seems to be ongoing.
-- none of the 47 have apparently been threatened with violence,
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