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Santa Monica homeless population drops 3.5% over two years

Santa Monica homeless population drops 3.5% over two years
A woman bundles up against the cold during the Santa Monica homeless count in 2013. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Santa Monica's homeless population has dropped by 3.5% since 2012, in part because of a focus on getting long-term street transients into housing, officials said Tuesday.

"It's focusing on folks who have been here the longest and who are the most vulnerable," said Margaret Willis, the city's human resources administrator.

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A citywide count conducted Jan. 29 found 742 homeless people living in the streets, in cars or encampments, and in shelters and hospitals, down from 769 in 2012. Most of the street homeless were sleeping along freeways or in front of closed businesses on Lincoln and Wilshire boulevards, Willis said.

The city's homeless population hit a high of 915 in 2009, and has averaged about 750 over the next five years, officials said.

Willis said the city has also had success with specially trained medical and police teams that link homeless people to services, including substance abuse and mental health counseling.

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