It’s hard to believe I’ve been in California for three months and never once posted about it! In my defense, moving from one coast to another, house hunting for weeks, dealing with difficult sellers and agents (that deserves a post of its own) and doing everything else needed to settle in a new state, has been a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, while doing all this, we’ve been living in Santa Monica, on a rental apartment just a stone’s throw of great shopping and restaurants and half a block from the ocean front. This has been a great experience and I’ve become a huge fan of the city.
Santa Monica is special, not only because it has super friendly people, a great beach and breathtaking sunsets, but also because it is a very progressive community with admirable standards of social inclusion. Its reputation as a liberal, caring and well-organized city, with good schools and good public services is one of the reasons Santa Monica is one of the most sought after places to live in Los Angeles County.
One of the things that struck me the most about Santa Monica was the city’s policy on homelessness. Unlike other communities, Santa Monica is known for treating its homeless with great compassion and for being dedicated to preventing and addressing homelessness through outreach, permanent and temporary housing and shelter, and supportive services.
To be sure, there are those who see the homeless presence as a danger to the community. They forget that many of the people roaming the streets today are war veterans, former successful professionals, moms and dads, who fell victim to addiction, financial misfortune or mental illness.
While the city has had problems in the past with the way the police treated the homeless, it is certainly much more proactive in addressing homelessness than the city of Los Angeles –named the “meanest” city in the United States by national homeless advocacy group in 2009, according to the LA Times— and other cities in neighboring counties. Just this past week, in three Orange County cities, three homeless men were killed by what is believed to be a serial killer, someone who does not embrace the notion of compassion and tolerance towards those who live on the streets.
On January 25, over 200 community volunteers will take to the streets in Santa Monica to visually count homeless people in the community, as part of the city’s Annual Homeless Count. I am seriously thinking about joining their effort.