Excerpt from LongBeach.gov
Long Beach, CA – Today, the Long Beach City Council adopted, in an 8-0 vote, the City Manager’s proclamation of a local homelessness emergency. The item was proposed by Mayor Rex Richardson and co-sponsored by downtown Councilmember Mary Zendejas. The local emergency will strengthen the City’s preparedness and ability to respond to homelessness.
“Homelessness is one of the biggest challenges currently facing our city,” said Mayor Rex Richardson. “This emergency proclamation demonstrates the commitment of every department in our city to be all in.”
Given the current homelessness crisis, it is critical to be able to move quickly and efficiently to expand housing and services. The emergency will allow for increased ability to hire or contract critical roles and recruit qualified candidates; more quickly engage needed services, material and labor; speed up large-scale construction projects such as motel conversions and tiny homes; and work through zoning requirements that currently exclude certain uses of existing properties.
Although City departments have drawn down and designated more than $90 million to address homelessness (City general fund, County, State and Federal funding) by purchasing buildings and land, operating sites, funding housing at all levels, funding service providers and expanding outreach, the system remains insufficient to meet the current need.
“We have a lot of work ahead, but we are committed to doing everything we can to shelter and house people experiencing homelessness in Long Beach,” said City Manager Tom Modica. “This includes working across departments and looking to our regional partners for support.”
Key areas of focus include:
- Enacting a State of Emergency declaration on homelessness and announcing an incident command structure, mobile command center, data dashboard, and the rollout of mobile access centers.
- Calling for Federal, State and Regional response, including a declaration of emergency in the State of California and collaboration with adjacent cities and communities.
- Boosting clean and safe team operations with an initial focus on engaging stakeholders and improving conditions in Downtown Long Beach corridors.
- Identifying sites for safe parking and additional shelter capacity.
- Establishing grant funds for impacted local businesses.
- Conducting area-specific strategy meetings in high-need areas across Long Beach to identify resource needs and opportunities to better coordinate the delivery of services across the city.
In February of 2022, the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services conducted its annual Point-In-Time Homeless Count (Count) that revealed an overall rise in homelessness of 62%. The Count found a large increase (123%) in the number of people who were sheltered in emergency and interim housing, demonstrating the effectiveness of the City’s efforts to provide these services for people; however, another 2,300 people remained unsheltered. In addition, the number of people with mental health and substance misuse grew significantly: 1,214 people reported having a severe mental illness, an increase of 143%, and 951 people reported a substance use disorder, an increase of 70%. Approximately one-third of people interviewed have a physical disability or chronic medical condition, and nearly 44% said they became homeless due to unemployment or a lack of financial resources for housing, which is up from 35% in 2020.
The City has taken a number of actions to begin to address this increase, including:
- Applying for Project Homekey Round 2 funding to purchase the 78-bed Luxury Inn as well as 35 modular units at the Multi-Service Center (MSC). These funds were awarded and Luxury Inn became a City asset in November 2022. Building improvements will soon begin with an anticipated opening of late 2023. The modular provider has been selected and the MSC has begun to prepare for installation.
- Expanding the REACH program to three units with extended hours and diverting 911 calls to the REACH team.
- Hiring two additional call takers to support communications with people experiencing homelessness as well as those seeking a response to homelessness.
- Receiving a $1.3 million Homeless Encampment Resolution grant for the McArthur Park area.
- Preparing for the launch of two new Mobile Access Centers and a mobile substance abuse and mental health treatment program in early 2023.
- Decompressing the Atlantic Bridge Community (ABC) shelter to allow for full capacity of 125 beds and expanding the motel voucher program with available funding.
These actions, in addition to many others currently operating in Long Beach, demonstrate a real commitment to addressing homelessness in our city, but more must be done, with urgency, commitment and innovation.
“The homelessness crisis in our city didn’t emerge overnight, and it won’t be solved overnight,” said Health and Human Services Department Director Kelly Colopy. “But, with the additional support the emergency proclamation brings, Homeless Services will be able to more quickly fill key positions and move more quickly on projects that move people into interim and permanent supportive housing.”
In 2022, Homeless Services saw a record 42,169 visits to MSC, collectively moved 774 people from temporary programs into permanent housing and sheltered 1,942 people through emergency shelter and transitional housing projects like Atlantic Bridge Community Shelter, Project Homekey, Project Roomkey, crisis motels and partnering agency shelters. The Multi-Service Center’s mental health coordinator conducted 177 mental health sessions.
On average, the City receives 218 outreach requests monthly and engages about 250 participants a month. In addition, the City served 4,232 participants through the Safe Parking program. Homeless Services provided 13,561 showers, helped 407 people experiencing homelessness obtain birth certificates and helped 68 people reconnect with out-of-town family members through its homeward bound program.