Home » InsideLB » Long Beach Health Department Introduces Monthly Column on Homelessness

Long Beach Health Department Introduces Monthly Column on Homelessness

Published: 6/13/2022

In June, Kelly Colopy, our Director of the Long Beach Health and Human Services Department, began contributing as a columnist for the Press-Telegram focusing on homelessness in Long Beach. She gives regular updates on challenges and opportunities related to homelessness, as well as City efforts to help solve the issue that is affecting so many people in cities across the state and country.  

In her first column she introduces some underlying issues that lead to homelessness. She shares daily City efforts happening behind the scenes of our staff working relentlessly to get resources and services to people in Long Beach experiencing homelessness.  

Take a read below. This column first appeared
 in the Press-Telegram

Homelessness: Long Beach health department introduces monthly column of statewide, city crisis

Examining the complexities of the homeless crisis and what can be done to solve it will be the mission of this column, Health and Human Services Director Kelly Colopy writes.

By Kelly Colopy, 

Contributing writer
Editor’s note: Beginning today, the Press-Telegram will provide an ongoing space for the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services to explain to readers the complexities of the current statewide homeless crisis – and to illustrate the human cost of the emergency – and what the city is doing to help solve it. This column will appear monthly.
Homelessness is a crisis across California – including in Long Beach.
As such, when people see so many fellow residents sleeping in tents, parks, cars or RVs, they may focus on the why. Many community members, for example, think first about mental health concerns or substance abuse, or maybe the lack of affordable housing or poverty as the reasons for homelessness.
While these are some of the factors, the reasons are more nuanced.
The questions we ask should go beyond what’s right in front of us: How did we, as a society, get here? What are the underlying conditions of homelessness – and how do we address them? And, more importantly, what can we do today to prevent homelessness tomorrow and in the future?
Examining those questions is the mission of this column, which we’re introducing today. Each month, we’ll explore the systemic and individual underlying conditions of homelessness, current efforts to address those issues and future plans. We’ll also talk about what we, as a city team with our community partners, are doing to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness here and now.
And we’ll discuss what we, as an entire society, need to do to all help solve this societal crisis.
In the coming weeks, we will release the results of the city’s point-in-time homeless survey, conducted earlier this year, which will provide a recent snapshot of homelessness here in Long Beach.
In the meantime, the Department of Health and Human Services hasn’t stopped helping as many people as possible.
In May, the Multi-Service Center,1301 W. 12th St., which provides case management, outreach, medical and mental health support, and various other services, helped 402 new people. Outreach staff connected with 232 people at 85 locations. We have 651 people actively engaged in case management at the MSC, 364 of whom are new clients.
We also are helping with basic needs, including showers – with 3,226 taken in May alone – and with connections to mental health and substance misuse services, as well as job training via Goodwill’s job-readiness program and others.
We also work each day to connect people to short-term and permanent housing.
An average of 43 people stayed at the city’s winter/cold weather shelter each night in May, and another 78 stayed at our Atlantic Bridge Housing Community. We placed 116 households into motels, by using vouchers, and 190 in hotels we’ve purchased or leased. These sites have been operating at nearly full capacity each night.
While emergency shelter is important, rapid rehousing – quickly stabilizing households that have recently fallen into homelessness – and other housing support also are critical. In May, six people entered permanent supportive housing, 21 people moved into permanent housing and 31 entered rapid rehousing.
But, with all we are doing, there are more people experiencing homelessness than there are beds and services available. The continued rise in housing costs and a shortage of rental units, means new people become homeless each month – while many others become at risk of falling into homelessness.
As overwhelming as this crisis is, the city’s dedicated outreach workers and partners continue making a difference every day.
But we understand that numbers only tell part of the story.
Of the people who entered into housing this year, one was E. E., who is in his 70s and spent 20 years living in his vehicle or a makeshift tent. Homeless Services workers, along with the Long Beach Police Department’s Quality of Life officers, spent years reaching out to him. Finally, in March, he accepted an emergency motel voucher. Soon after, he was referred to Project Roomkey and is now on the path to permanent housing.
That first night, he told our staff that he hadn’t slept in a room with a roof over his head in 15 years. E.E. did not give up on himself and we did not give up on him – and we will not give up on anyone else in our city who is experiencing homelessness.
In the coming months, we’ll tell stories of our neighbors experiencing homelessness and their strides toward achieving a better life through the support of our city teams and our community partners to ensure that every person in Long Beach can live safely and with dignity.
We’ll also share the complex, ever-changing challenges people experiencing homeless continue to face, as well as those the city faces, and how we are addressing them moving forward.
I’ll share our efforts with data, as well as human stories, in order to give you a fuller view of our work – and why it matters.
Kelly Colopy is the director of the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services. For more information on the health department, longbeach.gov/health

You may like: