Long Beach saw 7% increase in homeless population before coronavirus pandemic

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Long Beach jumped 7% this year from 1,894 to 2,034, bringing concerns that the numbers will continue to grow from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

While the results released Friday from the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count showed an overall increase, Long Beach did see a 42% reduction in homeless veterans thanks to a coordinate effort between the city and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The city as of Friday afternoon had not yet released the full data from the 2020 count. 

City officials noted that Long Beach’s overall homeless population remains 29% below the 2013 count. The annual count took place in January, before the COVID-19 outbreak paralyzed the economy and pushed many people into unemployment.

“Homelessness was a human crisis before COVID-19 and it remains one today,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement. “Now more than ever we need to partner with our local and regional partners to continue finding ways to provide permanent housing solutions for those in need.”

Los Angeles County also released its numbers on Friday, showing a 12.7% increase over the past year to more than 66,400.

The majority of those experiencing homelessness were found within the city of Los Angeles, which saw a 13.6% increase to 41,209, according to data released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Homeless populations swelled last year across much of the region, but Long Beach saw only a slight increase of 2% compared to its previous count in 2017. In comparison, Los Angeles County last year showed a 12% increase countywide.

Long Beach in 2019 changed the frequency of its count from every two years to annually and cut the number of volunteers from 500 to 250.

City officials attributed last year’s small increase to a boost for some of its services and more federal funding from the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP).

The city this summer is planning to open a 3-acre campus in North Long Beach with a 125-bed shelter and supportive services.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].