As Manhattan Beach Homelessness Liaison George Gabriel said at a Sept. 3 city council meeting, “homelessness is a regional issue.”
That’s why the beach cities—including Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo—have been collectively awarded a $330,665 grant from Los Angeles County to help assist the region in combating homelessness, according to Manhattan Beach.
The award—an increase from the $150,000 grant initially received this January—will provide the beach cities resources for coordination, training and case management services.
The funds will be used to finance a full-time city coordinator/liaison and two full-time case managers “to assist homeless individuals and families in the beach cities community,” according to Manhattan Beach city documents. The city, the lead applicant on behalf of the beach communities, publicly issued a request for proposal Aug. 21 asking for subcontractors to return proposals by Sept. 9.
But the money doesn’t come without in-kind efforts.
“There is a city match commitment in an effort to make sure the county knows we are partners in on this,” Gabriel said.
To hold up their end of the bargain, the beach cities will partially ‘match’ funds provided in the grant with personnel hours dedicated to alleviating homelessness.
This means existing staff in all three cities such as police officers and city managers, will clock hours spent on tasks related to homelessness as part of the collective commitment to ‘match’ county funds.
“Those aren’t necessarily costs that we’re paying out, but they’re reflective of value associated with our city staff...members (who) dedicate a lot of hours to homelessness…” Gabriel added, noting the agreement with the other cities will be formalized in upcoming memorandums of understanding.
As part of the plan, Manhattan Beach will also utilize a park ranger and older adults’ supervisor to respond to community concerns of people experiencing homelessness gathering in parks as well as the population of elderly transients.
“I really wanted to...cast a net across the city to make sure every city department is somewhat involved and addressing homelessness in their respective departments,” Gabriel said.
The grant, he added, will aid in the city’s plan to achieve “net-zero” homeless people within five years, which city leaders touted as a commendable next step.
Update on MB homelessness
Although the city’s homeless count is down to 22 unsheltered persons from last year’s number of 41 people, per data released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services in January, Councilmember Steve Napolitano said there is still work to be done.
“We are going from a local focus to a regional focus as we should while also maintaining an eye on our own backyard,” Napolitano said.
“This is a good starting point...I think that does show our heart, our willingness to put our resources where we are and where we want to be going,” agreed Councilmember Suzanne Hadley of the grant, who also works as a part-time library aid. “I have to say I do see some significant mental health issues at the library and some of these people are greatly disabled.”
Officer Ken Chang of the Manhattan Beach Police Department said there has been a growing number of mental-health related calls recently.
The South Bay has two county-sponsored mental health clinicians. One rides along with officers twice a week in Manhattan Beach. The health clinicians deal with mental illness related calls, particularly among transients, according to Gabriel.
Chang said the clinician assists in finding resources for mentally unstable individuals and can also detain them under a 72-hour psychiatric hold.
But, he added, in the case of transients who do not warrant psychiatric intervention, commit crimes or violate municipal code and do not want help, there is little more officers can do.
“We can offer them homeless outreach services, refer them to the homeless liaison officer. We occasionally have PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) representatives riding with the homeless liaison officer to offer shelter placement services, some qualify for Veteran Assistance Benefits...” Chang explained. The South Bay Cities Council of Governments currently has contracted PATH reps who can respond within 72 hours, according to city documents.
“Other times, they commit no violations and do now want our assistance. They just want to be left alone. During these cases, there’s not much we can do,” Chang continued.
Gabriel said the city will not be letting its guard down and will continue to work diligently with residents, city leaders and local law enforcement on the issue.
“This is something that generates a lot of passion from our community and significant concern not only in Manhattan Beach but county wide,” Gabriel said. “I want to thank all vested parties in this for being patient (as we) continue to address this in the best way possible.”