Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Backs County Sales Tax for Homeless Services||
By Jonathan Friedman
December 12, 2016 -- Ballot-weary Santa Monica voters will return to the polls for a rare March election to determine the fate of yet another tax measure.
The quarter-cent tax measure -- which would generate about $355 million per year for its proposed 10-year lifetime -- was placed on the ballot last week by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to fund homeless services.
The money would be used to focus on mental health services and rent subsidies, officials said. It would "complement" money generated from a bond approved by Los Angeles City voters last month.
The City Council went on record last Tuesday supporting the tax measure after Councilmember Sue Himmelrich asked for the support.
"This [tax] would be a great move to alleviating many of the homeless problems in the county," Himmelrich said.
She added that it was good to have the county, rather than individual cities, place its own measure on the ballot because it is "targeting a problem that we know is a countywide, and really a statewide, problem."
No other council members commented on the measure. The council heard from Shawn Landres, who serves on the City's Social Services Commission. He called the measure "vital."
Landres said, "We as a City have invested so much to combat homelessness and to prevent homelessness. It's time that other jurisdictions step up."
Although homelessness has long been an issue in Santa Monica, the City has greatly reduced the population by coordinating with local nonprofit groups.
The most recent count placed the local homeless population at 728, which includes people living on the streets, in shelters and in institutions ("Santa Monica’s Homeless Population Declines," March 2, 2016).
The story has been different countywide, with the population continuing to increase. One County report showed the homeless population rose 15 percent from 2009 to 2015.
The number of homeless women countywide has risen 55 percent since 2013, a statistic that County Supervisor and Santa Monica resident Sheila Kuehl called "shocking" in a recent social media post.
"We can do better," Kuehl wrote.
Kuehl included that statistic in her message to support the Los Angeles County Initiative on Women and Girls that the board will vote on this week.
A motion for the initiative co-authored by Kuehl says the County should "better address the disproportionate disadvantages and burdens experienced by women and girls countywide."
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