While L.A. County's homeless population as whole is growing, the opposite is true in Long Beach.
The city released numbers from its bi-annual homeless count this week, claiming the number of homeless people living in the city has fallen by nearly 500 since 2015 — from 2,345 to 1,843.
As a whole, L.A. has about 33,000 unsheltered people living throughout the county in tents and vehicles. On top of that, 11,000 more live in homeless shelters, according to 2016's annual homeless count, which estimated a 5.7 percent growth in the homeless population from 2015.
In a statement released by the city on Tuesday, Long Beach attributed its 21 percent drop to the expansion of permanent housing options, "innovative" outreach methods and coordination between the city and community members.
Long Beach nearly doubled its housing developments for the homeless in the past two years, according to Kelly Colopy, director of Long Beach's Health and Human Services Department. In 2015, the city had 1,354 housing developments. This year, the city has 2,140, she told KPCC.
According to Colopy, the city led multiple efforts to make more housing options available, including the ones listed below:
- The expansion of rapid rehousing
- Increased veteran housing and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH)
- Increased set-aside Section 8 vouchers
- The implementation of a $6 million surge grant to house veterans with families
Long Beach also changed the way it conducts outreach to homeless people, Colopy said. The Health and Human Services Department divided the areas of the city with highest homeless populations into quadrants. Then, the city staffed each quadrant with community liaisons who spent time getting to know the homeless people living there.
It took forming personal connections between the liaisons and homeless people to have an impact, she added.
“We might go out and talk with someone five, six, 10, 11 times before they say ‘OK, I’m finally ready [to get help with housing],’” Colopy said.
According to a list of homeless services listed on the city's website, Long Beach coordinates with nonprofit agencies that oversee 257 shelter beds on any given night. The Departments of Public Works, Parks Recreation and Marine, Police, Fire and Health and Human Services also meet on a regular basis to collaborate and coordinate efforts to battle homelessness.
Long Beach's 2017 homeless count took place in January, when more than 400 participants tallied person by person, covering all of the city's 52 square miles, according to the city's statement from Tuesday.
The city's two-year, 21 percent homeless population drop is “pretty significant,” especially when compared to L.A. County's trend as a whole, according to Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.
“We expected that we’d done a pretty good job [housing people],” he told KPCC. “But I didn’t expect the 20 percent number to be honest.”
The count also showed that Long Beach's homeless population has dispersed across the city, due to development downtown and along river corridors, he said.
Garcia added that he was encouraged by the passage of Measure H last month, which in the coming years will also boost Long Beach's efforts to house more homeless people.