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Number of homeless in downtown Long Beach drops

Long Beach skylineThis post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

The number of homeless people living in downtown Long Beach has dropped by 12% over the last two years, according to results from a recent survey.

The findings show that in 2009 there were 345 homeless people living downtown, compared to 303 this year. The drop reportedly helped save up to $1.4 million in emergency room costs and up to $500,000 in medical service costs for the city's healthcare system.

The surveys are part of a national initiative to permanently house the most vulnerable homeless people throughout the country. Nearly 100 cities have joined the campaign, including Long Beach Connections, a group comprised of city and county leaders, residents, businesses, public safety agencies and nonprofit organizations devoted to reducing homelessness.

Officials announced the results of the initiative at a Wednesday morning news conference outside City Hall, according to a news release.

"I want to thank the organizations and the many volunteers who helped with this initiative," said Mayor Bob Foster. "I hope that other cities take note of Long Beach Connections' success in reducing homelessness and duplicate these efforts in their community."

Long Beach Connections started as an informal collaboration of community stakeholders to address homeless in the downtown neighborhood. They were were joined by People Assisting the Homeless, Mental Health America of Long Beach, and the city of Long Beach's Homeless Service Divisions.

In 2009, dozens of volunteers took to designated areas of downtown Long Beach to survey homeless people on three consecutive mornings in July.

The survey showed that 345 people were sleeping on downtown streets. The average age of the homeless was 45 and most had spent at least five years on the street, lower than the national average of nine years. Most of the homeless people were black or white, according to the survey.

The survey also showed that there were nearly 1,000 visits to emergency rooms by homeless people within the previous three months of the survey at a cost of about $2.4 million to $4.2 million.

In the span of two years, more than 80 people surveyed were permanently housed, entered long-term care programs or were assisted in moving back to their home cities where they could be housed successfully with the help of family support networks.

A similar survey was completed this July to track the progress and showed that there had been a 12% decrease in homelessness and that healthcare costs also had dropped.

[For the record, 4:25 p.m. Sept. 28: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the survey was conducted on one day in July. It occurred over three days.]

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-- Ruben Vives

Photo: The Long Beach skyline reflected in the Los Angeles River as it flows to Long Beach Harbor.

Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

 
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