The number of people who are homeless in Long Beach increased by 62% since 2020, according to data released Friday from the point-in-time count held in February.
Nearly 1,300 more people are now in some state of homelessness than were counted in 2020, with 2,287 of those people being unsheltered. The 2020 count found 2,034 people total either living on the streets, in their cars or in one of the city’s shelters. This year’s count saw that number jump to 3,296.
The city did not conduct a count in 2021 due to the pandemic, and during a press conference Monday afternoon Mayor Robert Garcia and Kelly Colopy, the city’s director of Health and Human Services, said the data from this year’s count was expected to be released next week. Asked about the timing of the release, which was sent out the Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, a city spokesperson said the city wanted to get it out this week.
“This was as soon as everything was ready,” said Jennifer Rice Epstein, a spokesperson for the city’s Health Department.
A comprehensive report with data about the demographic, financial and health data of those counted was also released by the city Friday.
It showed that over two-thirds of the people counted (69%) are unsheltered, but Rice Epstein said that the city has increased the number of people who are in some form of shelter since the 2020 count. A total of 1,009 people are in some form of housing or temporary shelter, up from the 452 people the city counted as sheltered in the 2020 count.
The city has touted non-congregate living situations like those provided through motel conversions and motel vouchers as one of the ways it’s been able to house more people in recent years, because people are more willing to accept accommodations where there is more privacy and safety.
Still, there are 700 more people living on the streets compared to the point-in-time count conducted in 2020.
Rice Epstein echoed remarks that Colopy made Monday that the city could house even more people if landlords are willing to step up and allow the hundreds of people currently experiencing homelessness with housing vouchers to move into their units.
“We could decrease our numbers by 15%, street homelessness specifically,” she said, making a designation between those people already living in shelters.
The city is currently waiting to hear back on up to $45 million in state funds it requested earlier this year to build 35 tiny homes at the Multi Service Center and to potentially purchase another motel to convert into transitional housing.
One of the biggest changes, though, was a marked increase in the number of people who were found living in their cars. Nearly a quarter of those living on the street were living in their cars, according to city data.
The largest age group experiencing homelessness was the 18-54-year-old population (2,290), but 938 people over the age of 55 were also counted. A total of 38 families with children were counted, 33 of which are living in some form of shelter.
A majority of those counted were male (71%), while Black people (1,195) made up the largest racial population of those surveyed by the city. White people (1,187) were the second largest racial group counted. (According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Long Beach’s overall population is 12.6% Black and 28.1% White.)
Data compiled from the city shows that a large amount of those living in homelessness have some physical, mental or behavioral health issues. Over one-third (1,214) reported having a severe mental illness, a 143% increase from 2020. People with physical disabilities (826), chronic medical conditions (704) and substance abuse issues (951) also made up large percentages of the overall count.
The report pointed to systemic inequities in governmental policies that have disproportionately affected communities of color, particularly when it comes to poverty and low rates of home ownership. The report said that if those inequities were eliminated, the number of people who are currently homeless could be reduced by 26%.
Since 2012, the average cost of a studio apartment in the city has increased from $700 to $1,450. Over 40% of those surveyed cited financial stresses as a reason they ended up on the streets, a 35% increase since 2020.