The number of homeless people in Long Beach this year decreased by 2.1% since 2023’s count, Mayor Rex Richardson announced today.

The number is evidence that Long Beach is “turning the tide” on homelessness, which had been increasing locally since 2017, Richardson said.

Despite the decrease, “This is certainly not a victory lap,” Deputy City Manager Teresa Chandler said during a press conference announcing the numbers Wednesday morning.

There were still 3,376 homeless residents counted in Long Beach this year compared to 3,447 in 2023 — significantly higher than just a few years earlier.

Long Beach, like other cities across the country, is required to perform a point-in-time count of the unhoused population to receive funding for homelessness programs from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In January, hundreds of volunteers fanned out across Long Beach to tally homeless residents and interview as many as they could.

They found that of the city’s homeless population, 921 (27%) were sheltered and 2,455 (72.7%) were unsheltered, according to the homeless count report.

This year’s small overall decrease reverses a trend of homelessness rising substantially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the city plans to “double down” on its efforts to curb homelessness, pushing for more of the same methods, said Richardson. 

They plan to continue their “housing first” approach, sheltering people as quickly as possible while also acknowledging and attempting to address a “serious need for mental health services,” Richardson said.

“The role of mental health, per state law, is a function of the county, not a function of the city,” said Richardson. “But here, as long as we have a public health department, we would like to see more capacity on mental health.”

For the first time, emergency housing vouchers reached 99% usage, according to city officials, who said 2,479 people have enrolled in temporary housing and 942 have moved into permanent homes, according to the 2024 Homeless Count report.

The city continues to create more affordable housing amid a slower-than-average housing growth compared to the rest of the state, according to a recent report from California’s chief demographer. 

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Richardson also emphasized Long Beach is continuing its intervention programs in efforts to end youth homelessness. The unhoused youth population in the city decreased nearly 50% for those 18 to 24 years old and 37% for minors.

Through its point-in-time count, the city also collected data on the causes of homelessness. The report found that around 29% said they were homeless because of familial or relationship issues and 37% reported financial reasons like unemployment.

Long Beach is still fighting to return homelessness to pre-pandemic levels. The number of unhoused residents rose 62% from 2020 to 2022 and another 4.6% in 2023. Long Beach declared a state of emergency in early 2023, allowing it to operate more freely in efforts to better manage the crisis.

The city ended its state of emergency in February this year after spending millions on personnel, new programs, more shelters, more affordable housing and moving people into homes. Richardson said the emergency helped put the city on a rapid-response footing, and the work of ending homelessness continues.

“We have a mission statement …. If homelessness does exist, we want it to be brief and temporary,” said Richardson.

Long Beach is only one municipality of many dealing with the statewide homelessness crisis. Los Angeles County had an estimated 75,518 people unhoused in 2023, 9% more than the previous year.

In total, there were 181,399 unhoused Californians reported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2023, which is 28% of the nation’s homeless population and 40% up from five years ago.

With over $20 billion in state funds spent over the last five years on programs to help with the crisis, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently called for increased oversight on cities and counties that receive state aid.

More information on Long Beach’s 2024 Homeless Count can be found here.