The City Council OK’d an emergency proclamation earlier this week to allow Long Beach to expedite its response to the homeless crisis both locally and across the region. Doing so will let the city eliminate some bureaucratic red tape associated with providing social services to the unhoused community and developing shelters and interim housing units.
The declaration also allows Long Beach to coordinate a cross-departmental response and seek funding assistance from both the state and federal government.
That effort includes the Mobile Access Center, which will directly connect folks who are homeless with services.
“Beginning today and throughout the next three weeks, we will centralize our resources in the downtown area,” Mayor Rex Richardson said during a press conference on Thursday. “This includes street level outreach and the deployment of new Mobile Access Centers that are going to be able to connect people who are experiencing homelessness directly with services and resources specifically within the downtown streets.”
The Mobile Access Center is a van — similar to the city’s Restorative Engagement to Achieve Collective Health program, or REACH, vans — that will serve as a direct point of contact between the unhoused population and the city’s social services.
The MAC will be staffed by a public health nurse, who will conduct routine checkups, along with members of the Homeless Services Bureau, according to Department of Health and Human Services Director Kelly Colopy.
“Unlike other forms of street outreach, it allows us to start the intake process right there,” Colopy said Thursday. “The van offers nearly everything that we have at the Multi-Service Center, so we’re very excited to really bring the services directly out into the community.”
The city is also exploring whether to expand the Multi-Service Center’s staffing and operational hours, Colopy said.
“One really nice part is the Mobile Access Centers are really like Multi-Service Centers right out in our community,” she added. “Every hour that they are there is actually an expansion of our multi service hours (and) then we’ll be looking at the capacity and the resources we can bring at the Multi-Service Center itself.”
The city will also roll out an additional Mobile Access Center in the coming weeks, Richardson said. Both vans’ operations are paid for through the next three years under Long Beach’s American Rescue Plan dollars, according to Homeless Services Bureau Manager Paul Duncan, along with some funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“The mobile access vehicle will travel around the downtown,” Colopy said, “focusing on the Promenade, the Village, King Library, and the Civic Center at this time.”
Since Long Beach declared a local emergency on homelessness earlier this week, the city has also implemented an Incident Command System — composed of nine groups and 100 employees — to tackle different aspects of the emergency response. Long Beach used a similar system to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The emergency will use an Incident Command System (ICS) model of operation, which allows personnel from a variety of departments to work collaboratively to respond to the incident,” a Wednesday, Jan. 11, city announcement said. “It also provides a framework to manage Federal, State and regional assets assigned to the incident over a widespread geographic area over a prolonged period and provides logistical and administrative support to ensure that operational staff can meet their objectives.”
Colopy and Public Works Department Director Eric Lopez will serve as co-commanders for the operations center and will be responsible for coordinating cross-departmental efforts to respond to homelessness across the city.
Several unhoused people listened to Thursday’s press conference outside the main library, just across from Lincoln Park. One unhoused person said she was glad Long Beach is taking action to address homelessness with more urgency.
“I agree with it, because they need to take us seriously,” said a 35-year-old unhoused woman, who asked not to be named. “There are people out here who really don’t need to be out here.”
The woman said she’s been experiencing homelessness for years and has lived throughout the Los Angeles area, with stints in North Long Beach, Artesia, Compton and Skid Row. The services offered in Long Beach, she said, need to be improved to support homeless folks who have mental health and substance abuse disorders.
“Especially me, I feel like I don’t need to be here,” she said. “I just feel like I’m out here all by myself and society has taken everything from me.”
The city, meanwhile, said they’re working to continue expanding their response under the emergency declaration.
“There’s more to come in the future,” Richardson said. “We have a lot of things in the works, and we want to continue to discuss and identify ways to support people experiencing homelessness.”