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Santa Monica Not Alone as Coastal Cities Grapple with Increases in Homelessness


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

February 13, 2018 -- Behind a dramatic 23 percent jump in the homeless population throughout Los Angeles County in 2017, coastal cities like Santa Monica experienced a particular blow.

The Pacific’s beaches in Los Angeles County are an attraction hard to beat, for the general population as well as its growing sub-population of people living on beaches, the streets and encampments.

Of the additional 55,188 people counted as homeless in 2017, eight percent clustered around ten metro L.A. beach communities, including Santa Monica, which saw its homeless population rise to 921, according to data from the 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count and other records.

From Malibu to Long Beach, the homeless population in beach cities and communities reached a total of 4,522 persons.

Long Beach accounted for 1,863 of the 2017 total, although determining the exact percentage of growth since 2016 is difficult because the city’s last count (which it undertakes independently of the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count) was in 2015.

In that period, Long Beach cut its total homeless population from 2,345 persons in 2015, for a 21 percent drop.

It was the exception, though.

Santa Monica rose 26 percent in 2017 compared to 2016, rising from 728 homeless people in 2016 to 921 in 2017 ("Santa Monica's Homeless Population Highest in a Decade," May 10, 2017).

Venice jumped 20 percent, from 871 people in 2016 to 1,071 in 2017.

Redondo Beach rose 21 percent, to 261 homeless people counted in 2017, compared to 216 the previous year.

In Malibu, the count rose to 180 people, compared to 161 people in 2016, or a 12 percent increase.

Torrance rose 35 percent, from 107 homeless persons in 2016 to 145 in 2017, according to the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.

Homeless counts in El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Marina Del Rey were small, and increases among them in the handfuls.

Outside of Santa Monica and Long Beach, few -- if any -- homeless persons counted in either 2016 or 2017 were sheltered, due to a dearth of shelter facilities.

In Santa Monica, 581 people lived on the streets -- with a growing number on the beach -- and in vehicles or encampments.

City data found 340 homeless people had found emergency housing, in hotels or shelters. But it was also only 28 more people kept out of the streets than in 2016 -- far short of the total increase in homelessness.

In all, the lack of shelter was extensive in most other beach cities and communities. The statistics from the 2017 counts showed:

* No homeless were sheltered in Redondo Beach, Malibu, Marina Del Rey, Manhattan Beach or El Segundo.

* A dozen homeless people were sheltered in 2017 in Torrance, compared to none in 2016.

* Hermosa Beach counted five homeless people as sheltered in 2017, compared to six in 2016

The 2017 count reached all cities but Pasadena, Glendale and Long Beach. Each conducts its own independent counts.

It was a year, though, that saw the county’s homeless population spike to record highs.

The homeless also sprawled outward, from Skid Row in L.A. to the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, out to Palmdale and further into coastal cities.

Skid Row in the heart of L.A. maintained its huge homeless population, though.

Total homelessness there jumped 22 percent, to reach 4,485 people, although 2,546 people were sheltered -- a jump of a third from 2016.

Officials in Santa Monica say the spike in homelessness is reflective of a regional crisis, some of which has been pinned to a housing shortage for earners of modest means that has tunneled down to affordable housing.

The City has said it doesn't plan to add significant shelter and/or transitional housing in its borders for the homeless. It is a regional problem, they say, and best addressed by providing housing across the region.

“(T)here are other places with a much higher need” for new shelter or housing for the homeless population, said Margaret Willis, administrator for the City’s Human Services Division, as the City was learning its homeless population had just reached its current ten-year high.


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