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2. Effectively address the drug and homelessness Crisis

  • FIRST:  Properly identify the problem.  The origins of Santa Monica’s homeless crisis is unchecked in-migration from all parts of Los Angeles County, and beyond.  It is not about SM residents becoming unhoused.

  • SECOND: Match the policy strategy to the nature of the problem.  A permanent housing strategy is completely ineffective to address a crisis is driven by an almost limitless migratory of stream of individuals through the city, with a demographic profile overwhelmingly characterized by mental health and substance abuse issues. 

  • THIRD: Ensure that City policy improves the situation and does not make it worse.  Strongly incentivizing treatment in a controlled (shelter) environment, off the streets, and ensuring that harm reduction is NOT confused with addiction maintenance.  Implement street population reduction-based contracts with service providers.  Rapidly change providers that fail to meet criteria.


Effectively Address the Homelessness Crisis

Ineffective policies based on false premises are accelerating negative trends

BOTH Sheltered and Unsheltered Trends are going in the wrong direction despite 2,823 new housing units added to the city since 2013!


Source: Santa Monica PIT Count reports


Properly identify the problem: It’s MIGRATION, Not Santa Monica Housing Loss


The unsheltered PIT counts increased from 2020 to 2023 despite the Eviction Moratorium that was in place during that period

  • The City’s Annual Interdepartmental Update on Addressing Homelessness [b] presented to the Council on May 9, 2023 identified the nature of Santa Monica’s homeless crisis as being a highly transient homeless demographic driven by in-migration from other parts of Los Angeles city and Los Angeles County.

  • The increase in Santa Monica’s unhoused population increased 64% after the introduction of the Light Rail in 2016. 

  • LA Metro’s end-of-line policy for both the rail and bus services disembark between 60 (rail only)[i] and 80 (estimated combined) homeless individuals into Santa Monica each evening, 365 days per year.  If only 30% are new to SM, that’s an introduction of up to 8,800 new homeless individuals per year into the city.

  • Santa Monica’s unhoused population significantly over-indexes national averages for substance abuse (75% vs 32%) and mental illness (78% vs 25%) [a] [d]  This has effectively turned Santa Monica into a drug abuse tourism destination.

A permanent housing policy is completely inappropriate to any Santa Monica solution

  • Despite the addition of more than 2,823 housing units in Santa Monica from 2013 to 2023, trends have been deteriorating through the 9 PIT counts during that period

    • Unsheltered counts have INCREASED by a total of 301 (79%).  

    • Sheltered individual counts DECREASED by 155 (39%) during that period.  

  • The City’s unpublished Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) indicates that scale of annual (unduplicated) homeless migration through the city is in the 6,000 range from 2017 through 2020.[i]

    • The city is not properly maintaining the HMIS system and therefore does not have complete data for 2021 or 2022, denigrating the effectiveness of the resources it does have.[c]

  • Comparing the 2017 through 2020 HMIS data to the related Point-In-Time (PIT) counts indicates that the duration of homeless individuals remain in Santa Monica is less than 2 months. 

  • The City has actively avoided a migration-appropriate strategy, ensuring ongoing policy failure


City policy must improve the situation and not make it worse

1. The City must immediately take concrete steps to curtail the unlimited in-migration to Santa Monica of homeless individuals from all over LA County.

  • Launch serious negotiations with LA Metro and LA County to include the possible legal suspension of all cooperation on all activities with LA County - this being a possible option to spur real dialog and solution sets.

  • Given the largely LA County origin of Santa Monica’s homeless crisis, and the fact that the state has shifted responsibility and financing for many mental health services to its 58 counties [g], SM must open serious negotiations to require LA County to substantially increase its fair share of responsibility for providing adequate mental health facilities to move those individuals with mental health issues into safe, controlled environments, off the streets, to receive care.  LA County retains 86% of all Santa Monica property tax revenues.[h]

2. The City must discourage use of Santa Monica as a homeless destination

  • Policies must ensure that harm reduction (e.g. needle exchange) does NOT create addiction maintenance.

  • Enforce all available laws such as public intoxication to discourage loitering.

  • Eliminate street-level services that do not require enrollment into appropriate programs.

  • Aggressively target illegal drug supply into the city to reduce the ability of substance abusers to support their habits.

3. Full and frequent accountability, from the existing homeless service providers, regarding the reduction of the unhoused, must be implemented or new providers will be sourced to replace ineffective providers.

Audit vendor performance on underperforming shelter bed utilization and availability:

  • 2022 utilization of 416 beds was 47% [e]

  • 2021 utilization of 253 beds was 44% [f] 

  • 44% reduction in sheltered homeless since 2009 (see prior chart)

  • Link substantial City grant funding for homeless services providers to documented reduction in street population to ensure accountability


  • ​Streamline RFP processes to enable rapid performance-based service provider replacement

  • Prioritize service providers achieving high success rates regardless of organizational affiliation


  • Require mental health services be provided to all in need and make treatment involuntary for those who are a danger to themselves and others by leveraging policy resources such as California’s Care Court [k]

  • Ensure full utilization, and expansion of, substance abuse treatment beds


4. Increase sanitation cycles, improved lighting, up-to-date repair, and security patrols of all City-owned facilities (e.g., parking structures and parks) should be immediately implemented to discourage illegal drug use and sales.

5. Prioritize law enforcement’s identification and elimination of the illegal substance supply in the city.

6. Enforce nighttime park closures and implement and enforce nightly beach closures.

7. Protect Santa Monica’s economic potential and preserve downtown vibrancy by preventing the displacement of commercial infrastructure by non-locationally sensitive uses such as homeless transitional housing. 

  • Use alternate city locations for temporary housing requirements

  • Acknowledge that shelter housing is the first step to stabilization and service delivery


a]  Proclamation of the City Council Of The City Of Santa Monica Declaring a Local Emergency on Homelessness 02-14-2023


[b]  Annual Interdepartmental Update on Addressing Homelessness, City Council Meeting: May 9, 2023 Agenda Item: 11.A p22


[c] City of Santa Monica Homelessness Study | Moss Adams 11-14-2022 updated 11-30-2022 p46


[d] Homelessness is a Housing Problem; Colburn & Aldern 2022, p52


[e] City of Santa Monica Homelessness Study | Moss Adams 11-14-2022 updated 11-30-2022 p69


[f]  City Council Prioritizes Strategies to Address Homelessness – Press Release 02-24-2021


[g]  S.F. will never solve the crisis on its streets alone. What should California do about it? SF Chronicle 06-10-2023


[h]  Santa Monica Annual Comprehensive Financial Report 06-30-2022, p153


[i]   Santa Monica Public Records Request #s R020564-011323 and R022379-051323


[j]   LA Metro survey: About 600 homeless riders exit nightly when train service ends


[k] Governor Newsom’s New Plan To Get Californians In Crisis Off The Streets And Into Housing, Treatment, And Care

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