In 2003 the Collaborative successfully sited the OPCC Community Model on the Westside of Los Angeles. It is owned and operated by OPCC, a non-profit corporation that has been serving very low-income persons in the greater Santa Monica area for over four decades.
The OPCC Community Model incorporates the assumptions, components, and characteristics of the Community Model structure. It utilizes a Safe Haven, guest employment services, a residential program, permanent supportive housing, and an array of supportive services. The program offers respite and unlimited stays to those who need a safe, non-psychiatric setting in which to stabilize.
Through a client-oriented program, OPCC staff provide participants with non-threatening means of acquiring needed services, stabilizing their lives, and eventually reintegrating into society.
The Community Model serves homeless individuals with severe and chronic mental illness. Santa Monica and Venice, two prominent Westside communities, have the highest concentration of people who are homeless, second only to downtown Los Angeles. In a special census prepared for the City of Santa Monica in 1999, it was determined that on a given night there were an estimated 1,037 people homeless in Santa Monica alone. On the night of the census, one-third of the individuals slept in shelters and two-thirds slept outdoors. Among the people who slept outdoors, nearly half slept in a secluded location. Among all homeless residents there was a high degree of chronic homelessness with 80 percent reporting that they were homeless regularly.
It is generally accepted that the majority of the homeless population on the Westside of Los Angeles has a mental illness and many have a co-occurring substance disorder. Furthermore, a recent survey of homeless persons with severe and chronic mental illness in downtown and the Westside of Los Angeles confirmed the absence of mental health services with its finding that only 20 percent of the respondents had received mental health treatment over the two-month period prior to the interview.1
Many people who are homeless often have substance addiction problems. Traditional mental health and housing programs require sobriety and use of psychotropic medications, have extensive security, require mandatory participation in supportive services as a condition of receiving housing and services, and have time limited stays. As a result, many persons who are homeless and have a mental illness choose to remain on the streets rather than feel pressured into a “program.” This population goes through the revolving door of the over-burdened county jail system, which now houses the greatest number of people who have a mental disability and are homeless.
The Community Model responds to this need by engaging new participants by giving them the time, space and resources to build positive relationships and trust. The Community Model also offers respite for individuals who have relapsed and/or decompensated and who need a safe, low-demand setting to stabilize in a non-psychiatric setting.
1 Koegel, et al. Utilization of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Among Homeless Adults in Los Angeles, 1999, Medical Care.