Editors note: This article was originally published in print on June 2, 2022.
Homeless Task Force member Kelly Pessis provided the November 2021 Ad Hoc Committee Report overview. The report’s intent is to provide a holistic examination of homeless services and policing, community safety, highlight specific areas of weaknesses and propose cross-agency unified monthly reports.
The first three task force assignments includes: how to remove encampments in high fire hazard severity zones, identify best practices of how the city could utilize existing resources, and propose emergency and/or remedial actions to address urgent fire, health and public safety threats.
“The more information we get as to what our services are doing to [address] problems, [and] to move people into housing, the only way we know whether it’s working or not, is if we get really accurate reports,” Pessis said. “It’s really important for us to identify those who are open to services, service ready or get them service, and to concentrate efforts on those people; as well as remove those who are service resistant from our community.”
The second step includes couple enforcement with outreach and key elements of Malibu Homeless Program, which includes enforced camping and parking laws. Another step includes working in targeted and unified fashion with Sheriff’s deputies, HOST Team, outreach, Mental Evaluation Teams (MET) and towing vendors for consistent enforcement and sweeps. Their ultimate goal is to unify all agencies to adopt a policy of triage and effect.
In the report, the number of arson and illegal encampment fires in 2020 was 23. The number of chaparral growth in Eastern Malibu was 30.
“As we see more and more homeless people are leaving their states and origin and coming here, 51 percent of the nation’s homeless now live in California,” Pessis said.
Regardless of the data, Pessis said most homeless need medical and psychiatric care.
“The majority of homeless are older individuals, that coupled with substance abuse or lack of job training, makes it really hard to get employed,” Pessis said. “Another interesting stat to me is that a majority of the previously incarcerated people in the homeless population are women.”
The chart Pessis presented was gathered from prisonpolicy.org. The Prison Policy Initiative’s research is designed to reshape debates around mass incarceration by offering an overview of critical policy issues, such as probation and parole, women’s incarceration, and youth confinement.
After the presentation, members commented on the report and provided updates on the homeless in the community.
Public Safety Commission Chair Chris Frost provided a Volunteers on Patrol report and said he has seen more and new transients coming and going through Malibu.
“As far as progress being made, people are coming and going; I’ve seen more people in Malibu that I don’t know,” Frost said. “So I think there are a lot of people passing through. We’re getting into summer and they pass through.”
Frost said they still enforce their laws with camping in regards to safety.
“I’m going to fall into the side of safety and safety means being able to enforce our laws in our town,” Frost said. “It certainly doesn’t mean being non-compassionate to anybody, it’s just being able to enforce our laws, we just try to do it compassionately.”
Frost and Pessis mentioned their excitement for Sheriff’s Capt. Jennifer Seetoo’s return to Malibu.
“We all know that she does have a liking for Malibu and she wants to see us survive in a very healthy and safe state, so I think we’re going to see great things there,” Frost said.
Task force members shared stories they have experienced with homeless individuals they have been in contact with in Malibu.
Public Safety Manager Susan Dueñas said they could start looking into how they can do more than what they have been doing so far with the report.
“I wonder would if it would be helpful if we put together a report on everything that’s being done to address the safety side of homelessess, and then taking that and then thinking is there something more we can do, rather than just talking more about what we’re already doing,” Dueñas said.
After the report, commissioners reviewed the two proposed preambles to the revised Homelessness Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives and whether to even add a preamble. The report was returned to the commission after it was approved on April 19, for submission to the City Council.
“We faced a great deal of scrutiny by outside advocates to attempt to state our position of what and why we were trying to do this, that the council had voted on seeking a shelter outside the city and we might be attacked for that, and I thought this preamble could be instrumental in providing the cover, the protection for that and that is why having such [preamble] is a good idea,” Commissioner Scott Dittrich said. “It gives the landscape of our city, this little small city by the coast with no hospital, almost no medical services, no health services, on and on and on, and I thought that was the most useful thing to have in it.”
The recommendation failed, and the panel agreed to revise the report. The report will be sent to the City Council on June 27.
The next Homeless Task Force meeting is on Tuesday, June 21, at 2 p.m.