A biennial survey carried out by the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services revealed more progress in the city’s efforts to reduce the number of homeless people on the streets, especially within the veteran population, since the last time the report was released in 2011.
The number of people living on the street without shelter dropped from 2,203 to 1,879 while the number of people in emergency shelters or traditional housing remained static with an increase of five people to 1,654. Overall, the total number of homeless in Long Beach is the lowest since it dipped to 3,482 in 2009 and the second lowest since 2003.
The largest improvement was seen in the city’s homeless veterans. The number of unsheltered veterans shrunk from 309 in 2011 to 164, with the amount living in shelters nearly doubling to 946 from the reported 574 two years ago.
According to the report, 85% of the 1,110 homeless veterans in the city are now sheltered. In a press release, Mayor Bob Foster attributed the progress to the cooperation of several parties in the fight against homelessness in the city.
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In 2010, The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness set goals of ending chronic and veteran homelessness by 2015 and ending family and child homelessness by 2020. Amid other agencies losing funding due to sequestration, the Veterans Affairs budget was more than doubled in the last decade, according to an article in the New York Times, which could account for more dollars being available to get veterans off the streets and into shelters.
The Long Beach Health Department received over 400 Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Vouchers from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to assist with rent, case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for homeless veterans.
As part of the conditions stipulated to receive such funding, about 270 volunteers were deployed into the city in January to gather the data for this year’s survey.
The statistics in Long Beach mirror the national trend of homelessness across all demographics, remaining relatively the same. Despite a recession, a HUD annual report to Congress given late last year showed that the slight drop in homeless individuals was offset by small increase in homeless families. The report also estimated that there were nearly 100,000 chronically homeless people (homeless for more than 12 months) and over 62,000 homeless veterans at the time of the survey.
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