Behind the numbers: Long Beach reports first drop in unhoused population since 2017

Long Beach reports its first decrease in homelessness since 2017. The city released its 2024 Point-in-Time Count report on the city’s unhoused population on Wednesday.

The drop is small: only 2.1% in total, the difference between 3,376 people identified as homeless in January 2024 and 3,447 people a year earlier. But city officials credit a variety of efforts, including increased outreach, a year-round shelter opening in June 2023, a mobile access center and rental and income assistance programs. The city declared the lack of housing a local emergency early last year.

“These numbers let us know we are on the right track and need to continue our work,” Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson said in an emailed statement.

This year’s count was conducted early in the morning of Jan. 25 with more than 300 volunteers, according to the city. More than half of those surveyed, 53%, said this was their first episode of homelessness. About a third of those counted lived in vehicles.

City spokeswoman Jennifer Rice Epstein said she believes the decrease isn’t just because people are moving elsewhere.

“People obviously move forward on their own,” she said, “but I really think it’s the result of all the effort put in by people who work with homeless people.”

Orange County also released its 2024 point-in-time report on Wednesday, which saw the number of unhoused people living on the streets increase to more than 30% since 2022. Los Angeles County is expected to release its report in June.

Fewer young people and over 55s without housing reported

Long Beach’s recently released count shows a decline in young and elderly unhoused populations, including a 49% drop for those aged 18-24, a 37% drop for minors under 18, a drop of 9, 4% for 55-64 year olds and a slight drop of 3% for seniors over 65.

However, homelessness continued to increase for people aged 35 to 44 and 45 to 54, by 11% and 6.2% respectively.

Fewer women were reported as unhoused this year. Increases of nearly 40% were seen for transgender and “gender non-conforming” people, but that is partly due to different accounting methods, Epstein said.

This year’s count also noted a smaller unhoused population of Latino and Asian/Pacific Islander origins. The unhoused black population has remained stable, while the unhoused white population has increased and the city’s small American Indian/Alaska Native unhoused population has nearly doubled.

The number of homeless veterans has increased slightly, although the city says fewer of them are homeless and new developments will house an additional 78 veterans “in the coming months.”

Long Beach declared a local homelessness emergency in January 2023 after seeing a staggering 62% increase in its unhoused population the previous year.

The city has also struggled with many deaths of unhoused people, particularly residents of a converted hotel who have come under scrutiny. City spokesman Epstein said many of the people who died there were older and died of natural causes, and that the shelter was being converted to permanent housing and under new operation.

A list of solutions

According to a city release, the emergency declaration put in place a number of programs and policies aimed at short- and long-term solutions: Long Beach homeless services staff increased their outreach activities sensitization ; the city launched a text information line for English and Spanish speakers; Working with Los Angeles County, the city purchased and opened an 85-bed, year-round shelter last June.

A “mobile access center” with emergency services on wheels was launched in January of last year, and a second was added last summer, Epstein said. There have also been efforts to expand rental assistance and more temporary housing projects in the works.

The city also launched a guaranteed income program in May 2023, providing $500 per month for 12 months to 250 households. It was expanded in January 2024 to include 200 additional low-income households with children.

City leaders ended the emergency in Februaryvoting at the same time to accept and request more state funding for homelessness initiatives.

Have you been affected by the number of homeless people this year?

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