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Tax to Help Homeless Gets Airing in Santa Monica  

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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

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Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

January 31, 2017 -- With the March 7 special election nearing, a proposed measure to hike the sales taxes by a quarter cent countywide to help the homeless will get an airing Saturday in a community "conversation" hosted by the City of Santa Monica.

Measure H would raise an estimated $350 million annually to fund services for the county's homeless population of almost 47,000 people -- the nation's largest.

The measure casts a wide net, with the funding going to services providing more help for mental health issues, drug and alcohol addiction, health care, education, job training, rent subsidies, emergency and affordable housing and support services for homeless families and children.

The funds are also to be channeled to members of the homeless population who are in foster care, military veterans, battered women, senior citizens and the disabled.

The increased tax would be levied over a decade, according to the county Board of Supervisors, which voted to put the measure on the ballot in December.

Santa Monica's current sales tax is 9.25 percent .

The move by county supervisors came just a month after voters in the City of Los Angeles approved Measure HHH, which raised property taxes by .01 percent to pay for more supportive housing and shelters for the homeless.

Measure HHH passed with 76 percent of the city's vote, and officials there immediately called on the rest of the county to help more with the homeless.

Measure HHH is expected to raise $1.2 billion over a decade.

Saturday's community discussion of Measure H will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Civic Center's East wing, at 1855 Main Street.

The county's homeless population rose 5.7 percent last year, and 12 percent in Los Angeles City. There were spots of good news: the percentage of homeless military veteran dropped by a third, for instance, and there were fewer homeless families.

Still, the count found a 55 percent increase in females who were homeless and that many of them had beem physically abused. The overall population suffered high levels of substance abuse.

The West Los Angeles homeless population grew 9 percent last year. The San Gabriel Valley's homeless population posted an almost 16 percent increase, the largest in the 2016 count conducted in the greater Los Angeles area.

Santa Monica's homeless population dropped one percent, to 728 individuals. The total count for 2016 was down 20 percent from 2009, the year that is used as a baseline ("Santa Monica's Homeless Population Declines," March 2, 2016).

No families or minors were found unsheltered. The total number of people living on the street was 416, a six percent bump, with 73 of them living in vehicles or encampments.

The largest concentration of homeless people were living on the beach, the 2016 count found. The total jumped from five people in 2015 to 48 last year.

About half of Santa Monica's homeless people were from elsewhere in the county and about 30 percent were from out of state, according to the 2916 City count.

The information was self reported. About 60 percent of those questioned said they'd been homeless more than a year; about 30 percent said they'd been homeless more than five years.

Both the county and its 88 cities have struggled to determine how to fund the cost-intensive services needed to help the homeless.

The county has even suggested cities kick in increments of $500 a month for each homeless person to help with the large medical and other costs borne by county government.

Helping the homeless has been designated a top priority for Santa Monica's City officials. But even with a $614.1 million budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, officials say it is difficult to make progress on a problem that is increasingly viewed as requiring a regional approach.

As in the larger L.A. area, volunteers in Santa Monica helped conduct the 2017 homeless count last week.

Aside from helping officials understand the size and needs of the homeless, the counts are used to help calculate funding from state and federal governments.

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