Across the State of California, urban cities like San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles, are experiencing new challenges when it comes to a growing and transient homeless population. In fact, there are also reports of homelessness growing in coastal communities across the state.
Long Beach has been a leader in building supportive housing for homeless veterans, and working with local agencies to find families homes and access to mental health services. But homelessness has been increasing throughout the state and the region, and as development in Long Beach continues, we need to redouble our efforts.
In order to ensure an inclusive approach that engages the entire community, I'm calling a special City Council study session on homelessness for October 4 at 5pm. During the study session, we will review the progress we've made over the past decade, discuss the new challenges we are now facing, and review the city’s last ten year planning effort that began in 2004.
The most recent count of homeless residents in Long Beach, completed in January 2015, showed an 18% decrease in homelessness over two years. However, with a documented increase in homelessness regionally, the closing of many encampments on the L.A. River, and reports of increased homelessness in some Long Beach neighborhoods, there is a need to refocus and realign citywide strategies. The next homelessness count begins this January.
In 2010, the City Council adopted “5 Key Community Strategies” to combat homelessness, which were to increase affordable housing, promote economic stability, provide support services to prevent homelessness, expand participation to all sectors of the community, and use a data and research driven approach. The upcoming study session will review the implementation of these strategies and their current status. It will also provide a chance for the Council to ask questions of city staff, and for the community to give input to the Council.
It's important to involve residents, business owners, community groups, and homeless individuals and families in this crucial conversation. If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to attend our study session or get involved in the planning process.
I intend to ask the City Council to work closely with the Homeless Services Advisory Commission, our new Veterans Affairs Commission, our continuum of care partners, community groups like Friends of Lincoln Park, our business districts, and many faith-based service organizations to develop a new plan on addressing homelessness in our community.
In the past year, Long Beach has provided shelter to 1,738 individuals. Last year, the City reached its goal of eliminating chronic veteran homelessness. And, the proposed FY17 budget also includes a new staff position dedicated to exploring innovation and sustainable approaches to improve homeless services in Long Beach.
But we still have a lot of work to do. As our economy improves, we need to make sure that we are not leaving our most vulnerable behind. I hope you can join us as we launch this new effort.