LONG BEACH (CNS) – Long Beach announced results of its city-run 2022 Homeless Point in Time Count Friday — showing 3,296 people experiencing homelessness on Feb. 24, when the survey was conducted by the city’s Health and Human Services Department.
The count found a 22% increase in people living in encampments or on the street, and a 380% increase in people living in a vehicle compared to January 2020 — when the previous city survey was conducted before being halted for two years because of the pandemic.
At the same time, according to the city, “while many remain unsheltered, more people than ever before are living in emergency shelters or interim housing in Long Beach.”
Specifically, according to city data, the number of people experiencing homelessness now living in interim housing increased by 123% — though those living in interim housing are still classified as homeless.
In addition, according to the city, 78% of the city’s homeless were living in Long Beach and Los Angeles County before becoming homeless, while more than 90% became homeless in California.
The city’s survey is separate from the countywide Greater Los Angeles Point-in-Time Homeless Count — which was conducted over a three-day span in February, and the results of which are expected to be made public sometime this summer by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
The city count was conducted in the early hours of Feb. 24 with the help of 250 volunteers — and those surveyed reported a range of reasons as primary contributors to their homelessness, from economic to mental illness to relationship issues to domestic abuse.
“The pandemic has made our local and statewide homelessness crisis even more challenging,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement Friday.
“There’s no bigger issue and we must continue helping as many people as possible and getting them into shelter and housing.”
City Manager Tom Modica also stressed the city’s commitment to addressing the homelessness issue and to providing services.
“Despite the unprecedented hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic that have exacerbated the unhoused community, the city has continued to make sheltering, housing and offering resources to people experiencing homelessness a top priority,” Modica said.
“I’m moved by the continued efforts of our Homeless Services team, but we know more must be done, both locally and at the state and national levels, to address this crisis.”
In a statement, the city cited all manner of homeless-related data from the survey, including:
— an increase in the number of interim beds since 2020 — from 60 to about 530;
— 344 more non-congregate interim housing beds since 2020 via Project Roomkey and Project Homekey, plus 125 new congregate interim housing beds via the Atlantic Bridge Community;
— more than 1,200 (40%) people experiencing homelessness report serious mental illness, while 951 (34%) report substance-use issues;
— 43.7% of people surveyed reported unemployment or financial issues as the main contributor to their homelessness — with the city’s unemployment rate rising from 4.5% in 2019 to 13% in 2020 and rents across the city increasing between 32% and 40%, depending on the ZIP code; and
— more than 27% reported family or relationship problems as the reason they are now experiencing homelessness — with the number of people experiencing homelessness in Long Beach who report being victims of domestic violence rising from 217 to 678 since 2020.
According to the city, it shelters 40 to 60 people per night in motels, and plans to build new tiny homes in the coming months for people experiencing homelessness. It’s also in the process of purchasing a new Project Homekey site.
In addition, while more than 130 people have been housed through the 582 Emergency Housing Vouchers the Long Beach Housing Authority has been allocated, many more people are currently holding those vouchers but are unable to get landlords to take them in, according to Jennifer Rice Epstein, public affairs officer of the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services.
“We would love to find some property owners who would take this guaranteed rent and help be part of the solution,” Rice Epstein told City News Service.
The county, meanwhile, conducted its first homeless survey since 2020 in February.
According to the 2020 count, the county’s homeless population increased by 12.7% over the previous year, while the city of Los Angeles’ homeless population jumped by 14.2%.
In January 2019, Los Angeles County had 58,936 people experiencing homelessness, but by January 2020, the number rose to 66,433. The city of Los Angeles counted 36,165 in 2019 and 41,290 in 2020.