Long Beach’s Department of Health and Human Services to receive $8.17 million grant for homeless efforts

The Long Beach Continuum of Care received its largest competitive grant, totaling $8.17 million, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to battle homelessness on Feb. 17.

The award will be split into two parts, with about $1 million to expand housing and support services and over $7 million to support or add on new homeless projects, according to a statement from the City of Long Beach.

Mayor Robert Garcia said that the grant represents Long Beach’s benevolent efforts towards homelessness.

“These competitive grant awards represent the confidence of our federal partners in our compassionate approach to homelessness,” Garcia said in a statement.

According to Community Health Bureau Manager Susan Price, Long Beach’s Continuum of Care is a collaboration of nonprofit organizations and the Health and Human Services Department to help people find shelter and escape homelessness. The alliance is centralized at the Multi-Service Center, which averages about 26,000 visits a year.

Price said that the Continuum of Care has received funding from this grant every year since 1995, but that this is the largest award ever acquired.

“This grant will apply services to shelter and housing for the homeless currently in the city,” Price said. “And this year there is another permit for supportive housing for the chronically homeless.”

Price defined “chronically homeless” as individuals who have been homeless for more than a year or have had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years. Chronic homelessness also includes a disabling condition, such as mental health, drug and alcohol problems or developmental issues.

A report released by HUD in 2013 stated that Long Beach has 1,112 chronically homeless people living in shelters or on the streets. The report also found that Long Beach has the ninth largest population for large cities of chronically homeless people.

David Stewart, a media expert on homelessness, said he was homeless twice in his life, and compared the causes of homelessness to a four-legged stool.

“Family is one leg, job is second, house is third and health is fourth. If you knock out two legs, the stool will fall over,” Stewart said. “[Homeless people] will cycle in and out of homelessness because they may get their whole lives back together with help from others until something else happens.”

Stewart said that there are many veterans who are chronically homeless due to post-traumatic stress disorder. The HUD report recorded Long Beach with the 10th largest number of homeless veterans for major cities.

“Homelessness in Long Beach is decreasing in homeless veterans,” Price said. “And [the Department of Health and Human Services] is working to completely end veteran homelessness.”

Stewart said that in order to combat homelessness on campus, CSULB created the Economic Crisis Team over the past summer because, although staff and students would rise to the challenge of helping homeless students, there was no official program.

“The Economic Crisis Team has developed a food pantry on campus for students who do not have enough food to eat, and they also have a small amount of funds to help students who are homeless,” Stewart said.

A statement from the City of Long Beach said that the three-year project will use its resources to help chronically homeless individuals “achieve and maintain housing stability, increase self-sufficiency, and improve health outcomes.”

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