Meet Mallnese: “The power of seeing and listening to people cannot be underestimated.”

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Mallnese knows this. She’s been walking around with open ears and eyes for a long time.

It began when she was a child growing up in Pasadena, where she walked down sidewalks and was confronted with the reality of homelessness for the first time. It left a strong impression on her young mind, one that lingered until she grew up and made the decision to pursue a career in social services.

Today, that capacity to see people and listen to their needs serves her well in her position as Community Care Coordinator at Providence St. John’s Health Care Center. It’s there that she works with the homeless population to connect them to resources, a key component in Santa Monica’s goal of ending the homelessness epidemic.

Homelessness in the Emergency Room

There was a recurring problem in the Emergency Room at St. John’s. Individuals experiencing homelessness were coming into the E.R. on a regular basis, oftentimes without any medical need. Some of them came in for resources like food and clothing, others just to get off the streets for a few hours. The time and attention it was taking to address the needs of these homeless individuals was stretching resources thin — resources that needed to be devoted to medical emergencies like strokes and heart attacks.

This wasn’t the only problem. Repeat visits from homeless individuals also meant that the homeless population ultimately wasn’t getting connected to the services they needed. They were simply putting a Band-Aid on their needs with the resources they could get in the E.R.

That’s where Mallnese came in. St. John’s created a Community Care Coordinator role has contributed to a significant reduction in non-emergency E.R. visits. In this role, Mallense meets with homeless individuals and consults with them. Who are they? Where did they sleep last night? What are their needs? She then works to connect them to local social service agencies and housing resources in Santa Monica like The People Concern, Step Up on 2nd, and the CLARE Foundation.

And every time — before she steps into the room to consult with someone — she reminds herself of several things. First and foremost, she reminds herself to listen — really listen. She then reminds herself to be humble, to be compassionate, and finally — to offer hope.

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Opening Our Eyes

Mallnese would like to encourage the community to open their eyes and ears as well. She says simply being aware of the person sleeping in the park or in front of the corner store is the first step. The second step is being aware of the resources they can connect them to — services like The People Concern, Step Up on 2nd, and The CLARE Foundation. Many agencies across Santa Monica and on the westside are working collaboratively to help address homelessness from all angles.

For a full guide to available resources like the ones Mallnese is referring to, download the Santa Monica Homelessness Toolkit. It’s a practical guide for community members on what to say and what to do so they can direct others — or themselves — to services helping to solve the homeless epidemic. A new resource highlighting homelessness volunteer and donation opportunities is also available.

And be sure to keep up with what the community is doing in regards to homelessness at weare.santamonica.gov.