Through a homelessness avoidance program rooted in the proverb, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” the City of Monrovia has helped dozens of residents and their families keep their homes.
“The need for housing is greater than ever before,” said City Manager Dylan Feik. “Our community is striving to be as efficient as possible with the limited funds we have.”
Monrovia, a community of approximately 40,000 residents in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains, currently invests approximately $670 per person to prevent residents from becoming homeless. In contrast, the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates the cost to address homelessness is $35,000 per person.
The city’s current program is based on The City of Monrovia Plan to Prevent and Combat Homelessness, adopted in July 2018. The plan formalizes efforts that began in 2014 when the city launched the Homelessness and Park Conduct Committee in response to public demand.
“Our residents noticed a group of homeless individuals congregating in the heart of our Old Town and it drew community concern,” said Community Services Director Tina Cherry. “Our community members have been involved in addressing homelessness from the start. Every one of our goals comes from the place of, ‘How can we help?’”
The Plan to Prevent and Combat Homelessness details six goals:
- Be relentless in our contact with anyone suffering from homelessness
- Expand community coordination in support of ending homelessness
- Promote the use of the new Coordinated Entry System (CES)
- Develop educational materials to promote health and safety
- Develop a Monrovia Centric Directed Giving program
- Develop a Housing Displacement Response Plan
Focus on Prevention
The sixth goal distinguishes the City of Monrovia’s approach, according to Cherry. Through the Housing Displacement Response Plan, the city trains community advocates to help identify families and individuals on the verge of homelessness, connect them with services, and provide follow-up support.
“The key factor is having the family or individual connect with an advocate to develop a sustainability plan. That helps ensure that the one-time investment yields a long-term benefit,” Cherry said.
Since it began 18 months ago, the program has helped 23 families avoid displacement from their homes, 31 youth avoid displacement from their schools, and 27 adults and seven seniors avoid losing their homes.
Risk Management Principles
The City of Monrovia’s Plan to Prevent and Combat Homelessness, as well as related resources like their homeless response kit, demonstrates a commitment to risk management measures, according to California JPIA Senior Risk Manager Maria Galvan, who is the city’s assigned risk manager. “By taking preventive steps and through early intervention, Monrovia is mitigating the impacts of homelessness before they escalate,” Galvan said. “The city’s incorporation of community outreach and education is helping those in need.”
In addition to the Housing Displacement Response Plan, Galvan points to initiatives such as efforts to maintain safe and clean parks, deter crime, and promote health and safety. The city launched a “Populate the Park with Programs” initiative to schedule additional programming at parks to promote active, safe environments and a Park Watch Program, similar to a Neighborhood Watch Program. The city placed security cameras on the exterior of public buildings to deter crime and enable immediate reporting. And when faced with potential public health crises such as the 2018 news of a Hepatitis A outbreak reaching Los Angeles County, the city offered free vaccines to homeless individuals as well as city staff who interact with the public.
Outreach and engagement are also critical to addressing potential concerns before they escalate. The City of Monrovia Police Department Community Activist Policing Bureau conducts regular outreach with individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness and shares a resource guide that they developed in partnership with service providers. In January 2019, the city released a new Homeless Response Kit: Resources to Prevent and End Homelessness, outlining tangible ways community members can help address homelessness issues. Resources include information on the Coordinated Entry System, phone numbers for local service providers and tools for individuals to prevent and combat homelessness in Monrovia.
The city also remains committed to increasing housing supply for all residents. The city council has approved over 1,717 new residential housing units in the city, representing more than a 15 percent increase in citywide housing units that will help address the incredible demand.
Authority Member Resources
Authority members have access to training on how to best address homelessness-related issues, including “Encountering and Serving Individuals Experiencing Homelessness.” For additional information, Authority members are encouraged to contact their assigned Risk Manager.
“There are lots of reasons why people can be on the verge of homelessness,” said Cherry. “Because of our work on the Plan to Prevent and Combat Homelessness and with support from the California JPIA, Monrovia is now better informed about how we can best help.”