Community Response Unit

 CRU 2021

October 2021 Update. Santa Monica Firefighters assigned to the new Community Response Unit (CRU) first month of service has been a busy one. The team has responded to 38, 9-1-1 calls, canceled Medic Engines 28 times, keeping units in service for high acuity emergencies. The CRU has transported 4 patients to the Psychiatric Urgent Care Center rather than the Emergency Room, and given 22 Service Referrals, connecting several vulnerable residents to services.

New investments to address homelessness, Santa Monica Fire's new Community Response Unit hits the street.

The Santa Monica Fire Department is proud to announce the launch of a brand-new type of emergency resource, the Community Response Unit (CRU). The CRU looks like a typical ambulance staffed by two Firefighters, yet it has a distinct mission: to provide an alternative response to 9-1-1 calls to better address the needs of vulnerable populations in Santa Monica, including people experiencing homelessness. 

The Santa Monica City Council funded the CRU in the FY 2021 – 2023 budget as a priority project to address homelessness, one of the City’s top three community priorities. 

A standard Paramedic Fire Engine and Ambulance is designed to quickly assess, treat, and transport patients to hospital emergency rooms and then be ready for the next emergency. However, when a 9-1-1 call is less urgent and the solution is not necessarily the emergency room, the CRU has the latitude to spend more time on scene to help connect those in need with more appropriate resources. The CRU will work in collaboration with other City departments, regional agencies, and non-profits to help bridge the gap for housing and other support services. Another important goal of the program is to help keep Paramedics, Firefighters, and emergency room resources available for higher acute care services. 

Firefighters assigned to the CRU have received specialized training in mental health emergencies, including de-escalation, and substance use situations. The CRU resource will be integrated into the City’s service provider network. The CRU will launch September 13, 2021 and will be active Monday through Thursday during peak hours.

More about the City’s Commitment to Addressing Homelessness

The CRU is part of the City’s four-pillar approach to addressing homelessness, which includes: prevent homelessness; address behavioral health needs; maintain access to safe, fun, and healthy open spaces; and advocate for regional capacity.

The FY 2021 – 2023 budget included new investments to address homelessness and advance the four pillar strategy. Notable enhancements in addition to the CRU include:

Over 100 permanent housing rental subsidies for people experiencing homelessness as part of the American Rescue Plan.  


  • Department of Mental Health Therapeutic Transportation Program: A therapeutic van staffed by behavioral health professionals and individuals with lived experience in mental health crises that can be deployed to calls that would be better served by connections to supportive resources than by the criminal justice system offering a safer, more specialized response, and freeing up first responders to focus on public safety priorities.
  • Funding was renewed for three multidisciplinary outreach teams to continue efforts in the areas with the densest concentration of homelessness in Santa Monica. These teams collectively contact over 1,400 people every year.

  • Extension of the Reed Park Ambassador Program to maintain the park restrooms, answer questions for park patrons, and provide social service referrals.



City of Santa Monica © 2021
1685 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90401