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Homeless Population Drops in First County-Run Count


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By Jorge Casuso

June 28, 2024 -- A total of 774 homeless individuals were counted in Santa Monica this year, a decrease of 52 people that is likely an undercount hampered by a precipitous drop in volunteers and technical glitches after the County took over the census.

The 6 percent decrease was far smaller than the 20 percent drop on the Westside, where 5,383 people were counted this year, down from 6,669 in 2023, according to data released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) on Friday.

The four-hour-long count taken in Santa Monica on the night of January 24 "reflects the actual number of people, along with what LAHSA calls 'improvised dwellings' counted by volunteers," City officials said

In Santa Monica, volunteers -- who for the first time were led by LAHSA and not the City -- physically counted 479 homeless persons outdoors, including at city beaches.

It also recorded 173 individuals in shelters, including those staying that night at SAMOSHEL, the city’s shelter.

A total of 61 cars, vans and RVs were counted, with one individual allotted for each, as well as 21 tents and 40 other makeshift shelters.

"In past years," City officials said Friday, "the numbers recorded in Santa Monica’s local count have sometimes differed from the numbers released by LAHSA," which uses the same methodology across the region.

Last year, the agency reported 826 homeless individuals -- 100 fewer than the City-organized count that showed 926 homeless people, 786 individuals and 140 improvised dwellings.

This year's count was taken by 99 volunteers, less than one-third of the more than 300 who in recent years combed every street in Santa Monica -- a total of 226 linear miles.

The countywide count also experienced problems with upgrades to the new technology the agency implemented after undercounts were found in the 2022 census ("Few Volunteers, Tech Glitches Hamper Homeless Count," January 29. 2024).

The drawbacks will likely heighten skepticism that the homeless census is an accurate reflection of Santa Monica's highly visible and transient homeless population.

Government officials noted that the county’s count remained relatively stable and that for the first time since 2018 the number of people living on the streets decreased.

“This year’s Homeless Count shows that we are finally moving in the right direction," said Lindsey Horvath, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the LAHSA Commission.

"Our coordinated emergency response to end our homelessness crisis is beginning to show improvement,” Horvath said.

“These results are validation, not victory. We must continue to move with urgency across all levels of government and in every community in Los Angeles County to bring our unhoused neighbors inside.”

Santa Monica Housing and Human Services Director Heather Averick said the reduction in the homeless count is "promising and reflects the impacts of our strategic efforts to address homelessness.

"At the same time," she added, "we know our work is not done and we acknowledge the real impacts of homelessness being felt across our community.

"We continue to work across all city departments and with our external partners to prioritize permanent solutions to this crisis,” Averick said.

The Westside area includes Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Culver City, Ladera, Malibu, Mar Vista, Marina del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Palms, Playa del Rey, Santa Monica, Venice, West LA, Westchester and Westwood.

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