Number of Veterans Without Shelter in Long Beach Drops

This story originally appeared in the Long Beach Gazette on Friday, July 5. Click here to read the story on their website.

City Count Shows Drop In Vets Without Shelter
by Harry Saltzgaver

Thanks to increased support from the federal government and the ongoing efforts of U.S.VETS, there are fewer homeless veterans on Long Beach streets than there were two years ago.

That was the conclusion from the biennial homeless census conducted by the city’s Health and Human Services Department. The department’s acting director, Susan Price, said the number of homeless people in general went down as well, but the big push has been in military veterans.

“Bottom line, there are more vets under shelter now,” Price said. “That’s the good news of this report. We are better able to address the homeless veteran population better than anywhere else in the country due to the resources we have with our own Housing Bureau and the U.S.VETS facility at the Villages at Cabrillo.”

A program from Veterans Affairs that provided more than 400 rental assistance (Section 8) vouchers made the biggest difference, Price said. A strong and growing presence by U.S.VETS, which provides housing, counseling and job training among other services, also has helped.

For the last decade, the city has conducted an on-the-ground survey every other year trying to identify homeless people as a condition for grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That first year, 2003, a whopping 5,845 people were identified as homeless — either living in emergency shelters or out on the street.

Results from January’s count totaled 3,533 people as homeless. Methods and formulas have changed, so this year’s figures were compared to 2007 and 2009, Price said.

Statistics specifically for veterans began being collected in 2009. Since then, the number of veterans in shelters increased 53%, from 618 to 946, and those without shelter decreased 28%, from 228 to 164.

From 2007 to 2013, the number of homeless people in emergency shelters and transitional housing in Long Beach increased 25%, from 1,319 people to 1,654, while those without shelter decreased 13%, to 1,879 people.

“In terms of trends, the numbers have been relatively flat,” Price said. “When it comes to children, we counted 530 in 2013, compared to 586 children in 2011. But with a street count, it is difficult to count homeless families.”

According to a release, the Health Department and its Continuum of Care partners reached out to more than 24,000 residents last year. Approximately $8 million in federal money is spent each year by the department and private nonprofits to provide services to the homeless.

“Additional resources and better coordination among our partners are paying off as we continue to help people who find themselves homeless,” Mayor Bob Foster said in a statement.

For more information, go to www.longbeach.gov/health and click on the family and social services tab.

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