This week, Mayor Rex Richardson and Councilwoman Mary Zendejas have taken a big step to address the homelessness crisis in our City. The pair has asked City Manager Tom Modica to bring forward an emergency proclamation that would allow local resources to be mobilized, intergovernmental agencies coordinated with each other, housing units purchased quickly and help sought from both State and Federal governments.
The City has been diligently responding to homelessness from many angles, adding more than 500 shelter beds through the Atlantic Bridge Housing Community and by purchasing and leasing motels as well as extended use of the winter shelter. Homeless services also hired mental health clinicians for the Multi-Service Center (MSC), launched and expanded the Restorative Engagement to Achieve Collective Health (REACH) team and continued providing outreach and case management. Outreach staff has been heavily invested in, growing from four to 27 people. However, more must be done and at greater speed and urgency, which an emergency proclamation will help support. An emergency proclamation will allow increased focus, funding and resources for the City’s response efforts and implementation of emergency assistance programs and initiatives.
Resolving the homelessness crisis locally is the top priority of the City of Long Beach. Even one person living without shelter is unacceptable and we will continue to do everything we can to work with people who are unhoused to help them onto a path to permanent stable housing and provide the supportive services they need to thrive.
The City Manager will request the emergency proclamation at the next meeting of the City Council on Jan. 10, 2023. For more information on emergency request from Mayor Richardson and Councilmember Zendejas, please go here.
Homelessness in Long Beach has grown by 56% from 2017 through 2022. Of those experiencing homelessness, we see an over representation of people of color and increasing numbers of veterans and people with physical and mental illness as well as substance use issues and those experiencing violence in their lives. Homelessness also creates public health and public safety risks in our city.
According to the City’s 2022 Point in Time Count, conducted on Feb. 24, 2022, Black, Indigenous and Pacific Islander Long Beach residents are three times more likely to experience homelessness than other populations. Black residents comprise 13% of the population in the city but accounted for 36% of people experiencing homelessness. The number of veterans experiencing homelessness has grown by 48% since the previous Point in Time Count in 2020. More than 40% of people experiencing homelessness have experienced trauma or violence in their lives, and 6% were fleeing violence when they became homeless.
People experiencing homelessness suffer disproportionately from mental and physical illness. Adequately treating physical and mental illness requires assistance from the County Departments of Mental Health and Health Care Services. The 2022 Point in Time Count found that approximately 31% of people experiencing homelessness in Long Beach are affected by a chronic health condition, 29% by substance misuse, 37% by a serious mental illness, 36% by physical disabilities, 23% by developmental disabilities, and 24% by traumatic brain injuries. The prevalence of extreme needs significantly stresses the City’s public services.
Shelter and housing are particularly important during these winter months, when people experiencing homelessness in the city are likely to face heightened exposure and dangers from living outdoors as well as heightened dangers from the combination of COVID-19, the flu outbreak and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).