LEARN MORE ABOUT HOMELESSNESS
HOMELESSNESS IN LONG BEACH – AN OVERVIEW
People become homeless for many different reasons and situations. There are many opportunities to move past homelessness with the proper support and care. Homelessness does not define someone and is not a crime. Community members experiencing homelessness are also brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends and even coworkers. With the support and expertise of trained professionals, community-based organizations, and community members, we can help people achieve permanent housing with the tools and resources needed to continue in housing for years to come.
Homelessness in Long Beach had been slowly decreasing, but with the pandemic, many people lost their jobs and struggled to find affordable housing or suffered emotional and physical impacts that caused them to lose permanent housing.
Systemic inequities and the impacts of racism continue to impact who becomes homeless in Long Beach. Mental health challenges also can impact a person's ability to obtain and maintain stable housing. Research has shown that homelessness may contribute to mental illness and vice versa, i.e. the people having poor mental health conditions are more than twice as likely to experience homelessness in their lifetime, compared with people who are not.
As there are many reasons people find themselves homeless, it is a complex, multilayered societal issue that the City continues to address every single day.
LONG BEACH’S COORDINATED RESPONSE
Addressing issues related to community members who are experiencing homelessness is a top priority of the City of Long Beach. The City has an active Interdepartmental Team that works together to develop solutions on the road to solving the overall issue of homelessness. The Team also creates procedures or protocols for the Interdepartmental Street Team and works collectively to address issues. Representatives from the Office of the City Manager, Homeless Services (Health Department), Police Department, Fire Department, Public Works, Parks, Recreation and Marine, the City Attorney’s Office, the City Prosecutor’s Office, Library Services and Economic Development all participate in the Interdepartmental Team.
Nearly every department in the city has a role to play in ending the homelessness crisis. Learn more about each department’s efforts:
Funded by Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, the Long Beach Homeless Court Project is a partnership between the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s Office, the Long Beach Health Department, the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office and social service organizations serving persons experiencing homelessness in Long Beach.
The goal of the Homeless Court Project is to assist people experiencing homelessness with any outstanding criminal legal needs, while at the same time connecting them to critically important services, such as housing, disability benefits, social security, and mental health or substance abuse counseling.
Legal services include removal of active warrants, expungement of past convictions and, in some cases, a dismissal or reduction of charges.
Safe, quality housing is essential to health and quality of life and helps make Long Beach more livable and equitable for all. The Long Beach Community Development Department is committed to expanding housing access in Long Beach through thoughtful policymaking, innovative programming and the development and preservation of affordable housing throughout the city. These efforts include rental assistance for residents who are most in need or at risk of homelessness, funding support for new affordable housing projects and long-range planning activities designed to help ensure housing security for years to come.
Adopted by the City Council in February 2022, the State-certified 2021-2029 Housing Element provides the City with a roadmap for accommodating projected housing demand, increasing housing production, improving housing affordability, preserving existing affordable housing, improving housing conditions and facilitating the development of housing for all income levels and household types. The Housing Element update focuses on removing barriers to housing production to address challenges related to housing shortages and homelessness in the city.
Community Development works together with the City’s non-profit The Long Beach Community Investment Company and many community partners and local developers to produce and maintain affordable housing citywide, including homes and supportive communities for people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, veterans, older adults and people with disabilities.
To view a complete list of current and upcoming affordable rental housing developments, visit the City’s affordable rental housing webpage.
Pacific Gateway offers career development services that equip residents with the tools and skills necessary to obtain gainful employment. Career services include job search assistance, resume writing, career counseling, training scholarships and job placement. Business services include talent recruitment, incumbent worker training, targeted local hire and tax incentives.
The Fire Department is committed to keeping its residents safe, including those who are experiencing homelessness. In addition to their participation in the Interdepartmental team, fire crews extinguish encampment fires, while also protecting surrounding homes, businesses and other exposures. Fire crews respond to all requests for medical care involving people experiencing homelessness, providing medical treatment and transportation.
The Fire Department also has grant-funded Substance Abuse and Mental Health Awareness services (MHAT). The department provides training to equip our members to recognize and respond to community members who are experiencing mental illness or substance abuse disorders as well as identify behavioral health issues amongst first responders.
To date, the department has conducted a dozen MHAT courses, trained hundreds of personnel (firefighters, dispatchers, lifeguards and civilian staff) and facilitated over 1,100 community referrals to the ER, mental health providers, police for mental health evaluation, and substance abuse resources.
The Department of Health and Human Services (Health Department) is the home of the Homeless Services Bureau, which includes the Multi-Service Center. Additionally, the Health Department has several programs that provide support to people at all stages of their lives. We know that people experiencing homelessness often had childhood traumas or had been living on the economic margins. Programs such as family preservation, Black Infant Health, WIC, Childhood Lead, Nurse Family Partnerships and early childhood education can help break the cycle of poverty and promote health for young families in historically underserved areas of the city.
The Department’s Youth Strategic Plan and violence prevention programs, such as Long Beach Advancing Peace, allow young people to take charge of their futures, with programs that interrupt violence, connect youth and young adults to job training and empower young people. The Department takes a trauma-informed approach, recognizing the impacts of systemic racism, poverty and inequitable health access on the health and well-being of some Long Beach residents. Programs including reentry, which helps formerly incarcerated people, gives residents who might have otherwise fall through the cracks an opportunity for future success. This work, collectively, creates upstream supports that reduce homelessness in our community.
The Department also operates Health Care Access to help people enroll in Medi-Cal and other health plans depending on what the individual or family qualifies for. These services improve access to healthcare over the life span.
Long Beach Public Library (LBPL) welcomes all patrons, both housed and unhoused. The goal is to ensure that the public library is a place where everyone who walks in the doors feels welcomed and valued. LBPL offers educational, enrichment, recreational and digital resources to patrons, such as books and online databases on job skills and test preparation, support for job searching and online learning and free internet access.
- People without a permanent address are eligible for full access library cards if they are receiving mail at the Multi-Service Center.
- If they are not receiving mail at the MSC, anyone may apply for a computer-use only card to access free internet at the library as well as online databases for learning and job searching.
- Electrical outlets are available for device charging on a first-come, first-served basis at all LBPL locations. Devices must be attended to at all times and the library is not responsible for lost or stolen devices.
- Health Educators will be available to connect patrons to social services such as housing, food security and mental health support at select library locations (estimated start date: summer 2022).
- LBPL hosts outreach events that sometimes include food giveaways for community members experiencing homelessness on a periodic basis.
The Parks, Recreation and Marine (PRM) Park Grounds Division and Marine and Beach Maintenance Divisions help address homelessness in City parks and beach areas.
Staff interact with people experiencing homelessness each day and coordinate the need for resources to assist them with the City’s Homeless Outreach and Quality of Life teams. This coordination allows families to reconnect with their loved ones who are looking to bring them home.
For the health and safety of all, staff will properly remove abandoned items left in parks and beach areas and power washes areas that need to be cleaned. There are areas that have been scheduled to be cleaned on a weekly basis in order to maintain a safe environment for park and beach patrons.
In coordination with the City’s Homeless Outreach Team and Quality of Life Officers, staff perform weekly encampment cleanups within the park and beach areas. Following City policy, encampments are posted for maintenance 48 hours prior to the day of the scheduled clean up. This gives people experiencing homelessness the opportunity to collect their personal belongings prior to the day of the cleanup. If personal belongings are found, they are tagged and taken the City’s designated storage facility for 90 days. Signs are posted providing information on how people can collect personal belongings.
The cleanups help maintain clean and safe areas for all members of the community. They also assist with overall outreach efforts to people experiencing homelessness with the hope that offered assistance and resources will be accepted and get someone on the path to permanent stable housing.
PRM also supports community members and families of all incomes through Be S.A.F.E. (Summer Activities in a Friendly Environment) and summer after school programming; the USDA Summer Food Service program, which provides free, nutritious meals to Long Beach children; teen centers; senior centers; and a Food Finders Hub at Admiral Kidd Park that serves individuals experiencing a high level of food insecurity with weekly food distribution.
The Long Beach Police Department has two designated units to address homelessness in the city: The Mental Evaluation Team (MET) and the Quality of Life (QOL) team. These teams consist of partnerships with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, Long Beach Police Foundation, Long Beach Health Department’s Homeless Services Division, and other community partners. The MET and QOL teams, now a combined unit, handle calls involving people experiencing mental illness and homelessness, and they help provide services, resources and protection for those individuals.
The MET and QOL teams work to connect people experiencing homelessness to supportive services such as community support groups, housing resources, transportation and mental health services. They also provide police officers and outside agencies with alternative methods for addressing homeless-related issues.
These teams contribute to the City’s ongoing efforts to address issues related to homelessness. The teams are also responsible for developing new and innovative ways to increase collaboration with other City departments and regional partners on larger scale projects such as outreach along the riverbed, appropriate enforcement and clean-up operations.
The Department of Public Works Clean Team Division helps beautify the community and enhance the quality of life of residents and businesses by removing litter and debris in the public right-of-way. A main component of the Clean Team is to facilitate the community-led and neighborhood-led clean-ups by supplying dumpsters, trash bags, and other materials to support the clean-up events.
On a day-to-day basis, if excess debris or trash is reported or found in the public right-of-way, the Public Works Clean Team will post a cleanup notice up to 48 hours in advance to notify surrounding residents and businesses.
In addition to these efforts, the Clean Team also supports other City departments in their citywide initiatives. For example, if excess debris and trash is reported and it is near an encampment of residents who are unhoused, the Clean Team works hand-in-hand with the Health and Human Services and the Police departments to coordinate outreach efforts with people experiencing homelessness and facilitate cleanup efforts to ensure the public health and public safety for all involved. If illegal activity is reported in the scheduled cleanup area, the Public Works Clean Team will store personal belongings for up to 90 days and work directly with the Police Department so residents who are unhoused can retrieve their items.
TID is committed to focusing its technology efforts to assist people experiencing homelessness and our front-line service partners coordinate service and care.
- Leveraging resources to ensure residents experiencing homelessness have digital access, primarily internet access, to ensure they can maintain connections with caseworkers, service providers and for other quality of life needs.
- Creating structures for data integration among City service providers so records related to an individual can be easily accessed, shared and updated within an integrated system of care.
- Developing tools to better track available housing and shelter beds and using technology to communicate this information to front line responders.
- Establishing data sharing capabilities across departments to identify service gaps and opportunities for care improvement.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Does the City of Long Beach conduct community outreach to people experiencing homelessness prior to conducting an encampment cleanup?
Prior to all encampment cleanups conducted within the Long Beach City limits, whether performed by the City or by a neighboring jurisdiction, meaningful outreach is performed by City staff to ensure those who are affected by the cleanups are aware. During this outreach, people who are experiencing homelessness are also informed of various City and County resources available to them, as is standard with community outreach with our unhoused community members.
Encampment outreach is a critical effort conducted by various City Departments, including Health and Human Services (Health Department), Police and Public Works, and is conducted both in association with scheduled cleanups and as proactive community engagement with our unhoused neighbors. It is a multi-department effort led by the Health Department’s Homeless Services team, who conducts the pre-cleanup outreach in the days leading up to and day-of scheduled cleanups. Pursuant to the United States 9th District Court ruling in the Martin versus Boise case, which determined that cities cannot enforce anti-camping ordinances for people experiencing homelessness who are sleeping in public areas when there are more people experiencing homelessness than available shelter beds in a municipality, the City engages with people experiencing homelessness to offer shelter services and other resources available before any action is taken in asking someone to move from a public space.
Long Beach Police Department Quality of Life officers provide onsite support for City teams, contracted crews and/or outside agencies involved in the cleanup. They also engage with unhoused residents to inform them of the various resources available and help connect them to those resources, if desired by the individual. These resources include shelter and permanent housing services and information on job placement, mental health and substance abuse services, among others.
In addition to the Homeless Services’ outreach, the Public Works Clean Team posts cleanup notices 48 hours prior to a scheduled cleanup, which requests individuals to clear any excess debris and trash to be collected by the Clean Team.
Whether on City streets or along Los Angeles County riverbeds within City limits, encampment cleanups are a critical component to public health and safety. The process allows for refuse, excess debris and trash, and biohazardous materials to be cleared so that it is not collecting and creating health issues or polluting stormwater run-off.
The City understands these cleanups can be disruptive to our community who are unhoused. Cleaning encampments can put a strain on relationships that are being built through outreach teams and may lead people to be more hesitant to engage in services. However, from time to time it is necessary to clear encampments for the benefit of public health and safety and to ensure critical maintenance and repairs can be conducted in the right-of-way.
It is not the City’s intent to remove belongings during encampment cleanups, however, there are circumstances where it is necessary to do so, like if an item is blocking a sidewalk, residence, business or thoroughfare, or illegal activity. If the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) has determined illegal activity is occurring in or as a result of an encampment, then the encampment is cleared, and items are removed and stored for up to 90 days for individuals to retrieve them. When personal belongings are removed from encampments, LBPD officers and Clean Team staff work together to remove the items and instruct individuals on how they can retrieve their belongings.
There are circumstances when items are left behind as a result of an encampment cleanup. If this occurs, members of the Public Works Clean Team and Long Beach Police Department Quality of Life officers will inventory all items, place them in storage, and keep them for 90 days for the owners to retrieve them. Individuals are instructed of this process and how to retrieve their belongings during outreach.
The City offers extensive resources and services to people who are experiencing homelessness. The City is committed to helping every person who is experiencing homelessness find permanent, safe and supportive housing, among other resources. While it often takes many visits by outreach workers before a person accepts services, we understand that it takes time to build trust in our unhoused communities. Offered City services include:
- Outreach to connect and address basic needs for people who are experiencing homelessness
- Homeless prevention to support people who are imminent risk of homelessness in remaining housed
- Congregate shelters: Atlantic Bridge Community (ABC), Long Beach Rescue Mission, Project Achieve, Winter Shelter
- Non-Congregate shelters for people who qualify: two Project Roomkey sites and the three Project Homekey sites in Long Beach and limited motel vouchers
- Screening into our system so that people can be considered for permanent housing resources and supportive sources as they become available
- Support applying for public benefits such as Medi-Cal, General Relief and SSI
- Linkage with job programs, such as Goodwill and Pacific Gateway
- Linkage with mental health and substance abuse services available in Long Beach
- Safe parking so that people are able to park overnight with available restrooms and on-site security
- Basic services as needed such as being able to receive mail and take a shower
People can request services by calling the Multi-Service Center at (562) 570-4500 or the Street Outreach Hotline at (562) 570-4MSC or emailing HomelessServices@longbeach.gov.
- Make sure that you are communicating with your current landlord about your situation and informing them that you are working to try to resolve whatever situation is putting you at risk of becoming homeless. If you feel like your potential loss of housing is not being done in accordance with the law the City recommends that you reach out for legal aid assistance in addressing and getting representation for your concerns.
- The City of Long Beach offers a homeless prevention program. Homeless prevention provides short-term assistance to people who have received notice that they are at risk of being evicted from their current housing. Homeless prevention works to keep people within their existing housing unit when possible and appropriate and when needed can help re-locate to a new housing unit that will better fit the person’s needs. The program provides both financial assistance and supportive services to ensure people are able to be caught up with rent and assisting in sustaining housing going forward.
- If you are living within a car, van or RV you are eligible for all services provide through the MSC. The City funds a safe parking program that people living in vehicles may also access through the MSC.
- If you are couch surfing, you may be eligible for several programs depending on the amount of time and stability of being able to stay with a friend or loved one. If you are staying with someone who is exploiting you or is abusive, the City can support with connecting you to resources to ensure you are not in an exploitive or abusive situation. Please reach out to the available numbers or come into the Multi-Service Center to discuss your situation with a case manager.
- Whether or not to give someone else money is a personal choice that each person should make themselves. The City acknowledges and is thankful for people’s desires to assist other people in whichever way they feel most comfortable.
- If you are going to give someone money, and are comfortable, the City encourages people to stop for a moment and introduce yourself to the person and spend a moment with the person. Human connection and positive affirmations are shown to increase a person’s desire to make changes and engage in services. You can also provide information to people on how they might be able to reach out for services or supports.
- If you want to give money to support agencies you can donate to the Mayor’s Fund to End Homelessness and/or other nonprofits serving people here in Long Beach.
If I want to engage someone who appears to be experiencing homelessness, in order to help them or simply strike up a conversation as a fellow community member, are there best practices or general advice?
The City encourages that you start by introducing yourself. Take notice of what the person might be wearing or any of their possessions. If there is something that the person has that is a common interest it can be a great way to start a conversation and connect with the person. If you can’t identify anything that you have in common, you can also start by asking the person, “how are you doing today?” When starting up a conversation it can be helpful to go into the interaction without being overly scripted or having a set agenda and allowing for natural conversation. If you are not in a place to or do not feel comfortable with engaging a person a smile and hello can make a positive impact for people.
If you are engaging someone in a respectful and friendly manner, it is highly unlikely that there would be a safety concern, however you should always be conscious of your surroundings and if anything does not feel safe, you should disengage from conversation and leave the area. If the person requests that you stop talking to them, you should be respectful of their request. Thank them for their time and leave their personal space.
If any person is trespassing on your property, you may call the city’s non-emergency phone tree at (562) 435-6711 or 9-1-1 for emergencies.
Park and Beach visitors are free to enjoy these public spaces as long as they adhere to their respective rules and hours of operation, however, encampments are prohibited.
Is it legal for someone experiencing homelessness to sleep on the sidewalk and block the right of way?
While blocking a right-of-way is illegal, each circumstance is different and may or may not require enforcement. Our officers may provide resources for individuals experiencing homelessness, and usually ask the individual blocking the driveway or right-of-way area to kindly move. If any person is illegally trespassing on property, you may report it by calling the city’s non-emergency phone tree at (562) 435-6711 or 9-1-1 for emergencies.
The United States 9th District Court’s 2018 ruling in the case of Martin versus Boise determined that cities cannot enforce anti-camping ordinances for people experiencing homelessness who are sleeping in public areas when there are more people experiencing homelessness than available shelter beds in a municipality. Pursuant to this law, the City of Long Beach engages with people experiencing homelessness to offer shelter services and other resources available before any action is taken in asking someone to move from a public space. Most often the request to move from a public space so that cleaning of public space can occur. Citations are only given when someone has been offered shelter and have refused to move within public space. Faster action can occur in public locations where there are ordinances that apply to all community members, such as being within a park or on the beach after hours, or in the case that someone is obstructing the right of way on a sidewalk or driveway.
Please, stop and ask the person what type of help they are seeking. If the person reports that they are having either a health or safety emergency let the person know that you can call 9-1-1 on behalf of them and get as much pertinent information as possible. If possible, remain with the person and provide comfort till response is on scene.
If the person is not having a health or safety emergency engage them in conversation around what type of help, they are seeking. If the person tells you they are homeless you can ask them about their experience and encourage them to reach out for assistance. You can request outreach to come out to where the person is staying to engage with the person.
What should I do if someone who appears to be experiencing homelessness looks like they need medical support or mental health support?
If you see someone that appears to be having a medical or mental health crisis that needs immediate response you should call 9-1-1 to request emergency support for the person. Observe the situation and provide the 9-1-1 dispatch with as much relevant information as possible.
If you see someone that appears to being having physical or mental health concerns, however there is not an immediate crisis or emergency than you can submit a request for a team to come out and engage the person about their health needs. The City of Long Beach has its Restorative Engagement to Achieve Collective Health (REACH) team that consists of a mental health clinician, public health nurse and outreach worker that can come and provide assessments and linkage to care. Requests outreach response can be made to HomelessServices@LongBeach.gov or by calling (562) 570-4672 (4MSC)
What should I do if I see someone who looks like they are experiencing homelessness and is acting aggressively?
If you see someone who appears to be acting aggressively, if safe it can be helpful to observe what is aggressive about their behavior. Is the behavior aggressive towards themselves or is it aggressive towards other people? Is the aggressive action likely to harm them or someone else? Sometimes someone may be expressing their frustration and may naturally calm down within a moment.
If you are witnessing a situation where someone is acting aggressively, and that behavior is likely to cause injury to themselves or someone else you should call 9-1-1 and report what the situation is. It is important to be accurate with information is important.
What should I do if I witness a crime by or against someone who appears to be experiencing homelessness?
If you witness any person commit a criminal act, we encourage you to “See Something, Say Something!” and report any suspicious activity by calling the city’s non-emergency phone tree at (562) 435-6711 or 9-1-1 for emergencies.
If you see a crime with a clear victim, whether experiencing homelessness or not, it can be helpful to check-in with the person and provide support or comfort while waiting for emergency response.
If you are seeing an encampment that is new and can be helpful for you to report the encampment so that outreach can be conducted. If it is an encampment that has been there for a while, it is likely that outreach services is aware, however it can still be good to report the encampment to ensure outreach is aware and engaging people within the encampment.
You can report encampments through HomelessServices@LongBeach.gov by calling (562) 570-4672 (4MSC). When you are calling ensure that you have information regarding encampment that will be helpful for outreach workers being able to locate the encampment.
. People sometimes sleep in front of doorways to be able to get out of the elements as well as ensuring they are not blocking the sidewalk. If the person is blocking your ability to get into the business, you can try to engage them from a distance without trying to startle them. It can be helpful to introduce them and let them know that you are the owner or work within the business and you are trying to get into your business. If you want tips on engaging and working to link people to services, see other FAQs for suggestions.
If the person has been sleeping in front of your business for multiple nights you can request outreach services through HomelessServices@LongBeach.gov or by calling (562) 570-4672 (4MSC).
FUNDING (As of March 2022)
A variety of sources fund homeless outreach in Long Beach:
- City of Long Beach - $2,006,057.06
- Los Angeles County - $7,292,973.88
- State of California - $29,673,429.94
- Federal Funds - $38,172,100.43
- Capital Improvement Projects: $18,279,020.52
- Homeless Prevention: $4,502,364.52
- Outreach Services: $5,541,600.38
- Access Centers and Supportive Services: $9,970,357.26
- Employment Services: $1,600,000
- Shelter and Rapid Rehousing: $26,794,911.79
- Permanent Supportive Housing: $5,582,116.00
- Planning, Data and Administration: $4,874,190.84