LONG BEACH – The number of homeless in the city of Long Beach is rising as the residents rejected efforts to build a temporary shelter and city officials rejected a “homeless hub” proposed along the Metro A Line.
Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson declared homelessness an emergency in January and pledged to “lock arms” with Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass on the issue devastating the entire County of Los Angeles.
“Homelessness is one of the biggest challenges currently facing our city,” said Richardson. “This emergency proclamation demonstrates the commitment of every department in our city to be all in.”
The following month the City announced plans to build a temporary shelter at the Silverado Park gym but faced resistance and protests from westside community members. The city earlier said it would go forward with its plan despite the backlash, but Mayor Rex Richardson on Tuesday reneged.
“I’m a mayor that listens. The community was very, very clear that the opportunity cost of taking away a gym was a burden that I didn’t feel comfortable going forward with”
According to the LB Post, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (LACMTA) announced plans to build a homeless hub along its Metro rail line after the City asked Metro last year to reevaluate its end-of-the-line policy which forces riders off the last trains each night at every line’s final station because of the alleged effect it was having on the city’s homeless population, the agency proposed a homeless services hub along the A Line.
Metro has focused on two potential sites in Long Beach for such a hub, but now, the city wants the agency to analyze additional sites and provide more details before potentially greenlighting a hub in the city.
The homeless numbers are now up with no immediate solution in site.
Long Beach tallied 3,447 homeless people in the city during a point-in-time count conducted in January, a slight increase from 3,296 counted in 2022, city officials announced Thursday.
The 4.6% increase was the smallest year-over-year increase reported by the city since 2019.
“While the slowdown in growth reflected in the point in time count is encouraging, we must remain focused on the urgent need to address the systemic causes of homelessness,” Mayor Rex Richardson said in a statement. “Together, we can continue to make a difference and ensure that every member of our community has a place to call home.”
City officials noted that between 2019 and 2020, the point-in-time count showed a 7% increase in homelessness in the city. The number increased 62% between 2020 and 2022 — with the 2021 count canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s count was conducted Jan. 26. According to the data collected, the number of people reporting first-time homelessness in the count rose by 18% from the previous year, from 1,549 to 1,827. Of those, 59% were sheltered, and 18% reported living in a vehicle. The survey found that people experiencing homelessness for the first time are more willing to accept shelter.
Of the homeless surveyed, 35.2% were Latino/a, while 32.4% were Black and 23.1% white.
City officials noted that while homelessness overall increased by 4.6%, there was a 20% reduction in homeless veterans, falling from 451 last year to 361 this year.
“Addressing the issue of homelessness is of top priority in Long Beach,” City Manager Tom Modica said in a statement. “The city is working diligently and has taken a number of meaningful actions to tackle the crisis, working across departments and collaborating with regional partners, but we know there is much more work to be done and we will remain steadfast in our efforts.”
City News Service contributed to this report.