Long Beach will receive $5.3 million in state funding to help unhoused people in Lincoln Park, the Billie Jean Library and the surrounding Downtown area get into temporary and permanent housing, officials announced late Wednesday.
It is the second time that the city has been awarded Encampment Resolution Funding by Gov. Gavin Newsom. This time, Long Beach plans to open up 60 additional non-congregate shelter units that will be available for one year. The city also plans to bolster outreach efforts and transition 125 encampment residents to permanent housing over the next three years.
“I’ve worked here at City Hall in one way or another for the last 13 years or so and Lincoln Park, historically, has been an encampment,” Mayor Rex Richardson said. “And as mayor, declaring a state of emergency on homelessness, you can’t ignore [it]. … We see it every single day.”
“We can’t live in a state of emergency forever, we have to find resolution to some of these challenges.”
After the city declared a state of emergency on homelessness at the start of the year, a Mobile Access Center was deployed in Downtown. The MAC functions as an auxiliary for Long Beach’s Multi-Service Center, the city’s only fixed facility that offers homeless intake services.
“We saw some results, but you know there’s more work that needs to be done,” Richardson said.
But even as outreach services increased, the city’s shelter space has remained limited.
“If we go to an individual pitched a tent at a park, and we have nowhere for them to go, sure, if they pack up their tent, and walk away, they’re gonna come back. So ultimately, we have to find a way to resolve the situation,” Richardson said.
“What this does is it adds to our sort of rapid rehousing efforts,” he said.
Long Beach will also focus additional outreach and case management efforts in several areas around the main library, including Lincoln Park, parts of the Downtown Entertainment District, the Metro platforms, the Promenade and Harvey Milk Promenade Park—areas where they city has seen the highest number of deaths related to overdoses, which are often related to mental health conditions, according to a Wednesday news release.
In March 2022, the city received its first encampment resolution grant of $1.3 million to clean up encampments in MacArthur Park. Out of that effort, the city says 40 people were provided immediate access to shelter. Over the past year, 13 people were able to move into permanent housing and 25 people are still working with case management to get into permanent housing. The city’s 2023 homeless count found there to be 3,447 unhoused people in the city.
Still, even after that effort, the Mark Twain Library, adjacent to MacArthur Park, was forced to close for nearly all of July this summer due to “chronic” patron-related security concerns in and around the building, Cathy De Leon, director of Library Services said after the closure. Last year, the Billie Jean King Main Library also closed its doors to in-person services due to security issues.
Long Beach’s public libraries, particularly the Billie Jean King Library in Downtown, have long been plagued by dire staffing shortages, staff burnout and closures spurred by chronic safety concerns.
“What’s most important is the resources needed to actually put a roof over their heads, get them somewhere to go … so they don’t have to camp out in the park,” Richardson said.
It was not immediately clear when the additional shelter beds are expected to become available.