Homelessness in Long Beach increased by 7%, less than half the rate of Los Angeles, but the coastal city experienced a 24% jump in the number of people living on the streets unsheltered, according to data released Friday.
“Homelessness was a human crisis before COVID-19 and it remains one today,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “Now more than ever, we need to partner with our local and regional partners to continue finding ways to provide permanent housing solutions for those in need.”
Long Beach, which manages its own January point-in-time count and homeless agency independent of Los Angeles County, identified 2,034 homeless individuals as compared with 1,894 people in 2019. Officials highlighted that although the numbers ticked up from last year, the total remains 29% below 2013 levels.
Though Long Beach has a much smaller population in general, the count also points to other differences in outcomes when compared with the rest of Los Angeles County. Countywide, including Long Beach, the number of people living outdoors or in their cars — defined as unsheltered — was up roughly 9%, while the number of homeless people in shelters or other temporary situations was up a more dramatic 25%.
However, the number of people living unsheltered in Long Beach jumped 24%, while those in shelters dropped by 27% year-over-year, in a reversal of the county’s experience.
The two jurisdictions rely in large part on the same kinds of federal funding and Measure H sales tax monies, as well as many of the same solutions, including housing vouchers, rapid rehousing and homelessness prevention efforts.
Long Beach attributed the spike in the number of unsheltered people to “the limited availability of crisis shelter funds that support motel vouchers for households experiencing homelessness.” Los Angeles County officials have pointed to the success of Project Roomkey, which uses vacant hotel and motel rooms for temporary homeless housing, though much of that success has come after the January count and in reaction to fear of the spread of COVID-19. There is at least one Project Roomkey site in Long Beach, according to a Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority spokesman.
Long Beach had better results in its veteran homeless population, for whom the numbers dropped by 42%, according to city officials, who pointed to a concerted effort with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies to find permanent housing for veterans. The number of veterans experiencing homelessness stayed roughly flat in Los Angeles County, which has also prioritized helping veterans and noted that this group received “the biggest boost in federal, state and local investment over the past decade.”
Long Beach is expected to complete an additional year-round 125-bed shelter with supportive services in North Long Beach this summer and operates four temporary shelters that house roughly 250 people. It is also committed to developing several permanent affordable housing projects, including three named developments that include a total of 183 units.
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