HOMELESS OUTREACH A GOOD EXAMPLE OF SERVICES OFFERED

By Jon LeSage
WESTMINSTER Police’s Homeless Outreach Team has been working with the city’s homeless population for several years.

For those driving to Long Beach via Westminster Boulevard before it turns into 2nd Street, you may see a black pickup truck patrolling or parked. It might have a logo for Westminster Police’s Homeless Outreach Team.

The Homeless Outreach Team is staffed by four homeless liaison officers and two community outreach coordinators at the Westminster Police Department.

The team is among several city and county departments in the region serving homeless communities. These programs have also been designed with outreach to residents, businesses, community groups, and city and county officials who have expressed concerns about the growing homeless populations and the social services and public safety issues that have been raised.

Westminster’s team provides homeless outreach and engagement services throughout the city. They’re the initial point of contact with the homeless population.

The department collaborates with “service providers, shelters, city organizations, the community, and business/property owners to provide solutions and resources for the homeless population in Westminster,” according to the city.

The city also says it has been building relationships with other law enforcement agencies and other departments such as Community Outreach Coordinators, the Community Preservation Unit, Caltrans, CHP and other community partnerships.

About two-thirds of the calls for service to Westminster PD related to the homeless population are through dispatch and about a third come from officer initiated calls for service, or closer to 75% and 25% at other times – based on the Homeless Outreach Maps. These maps and data sets have been conducted over three years – 2021 through 2023.

From a recent survey conducted with 1,301 homeless people in the area who participated, 60.65% have been homeless for one year or more. The largest age bracket for these survey respondents was 41-to-64 years old (52.95%), followed by 25-to-40 years old at about 25% of those taking the survey.

It’s also about educating the public on steps to take to provide services to the homeless, and to take steps to strengthen the safety of their neighborhoods. If they need to report an incident involving homeless people, they can call the department’s Homeless Outreach hotline at 714-898-3315 ext. 4633. For those wanting to help the homeless, a better method than giving away money or food is to contribute to local charities, missions or food banks. They also advise that local residents and businesses do not permit anyone to camp, loiter, or store personal belongings on their property.

Health and Human Services Leads in LB

These homeless outreach programs certainly do vary by the city or county you may be looking at. Long Beach had assigned its Fire Department to provide those services through the Homelessness Education And Response Team, known as HEART 1. That program was transferred over to the city’s Department of Health and Human Services in 2020.

Long Beach’s Homeless Services Bureau has 27 employees that both proactively engage people experiencing homelessness as well as respond to community requests for engagement, the city says. The City of Long Beach designed the program to develop trust and rapport with the homeless community, and to inform them on available resources.

The city’s Multi-Service Center, located at 1301 W. 12th St. in Long Beach, is where these homeless services have been consolidated. It includes case management, housing services, homeless prevention, medical services through a clinic, employment assistance, harm-reduction services, mental health support, and a safe parking program.

Last year, the Homeless Services Bureau launched the Mobile Access Center program. Two RV-style vans are set up in different locations throughout the week to provide medical services to the public. It’s done in partnership with a third-party medical provider, Health Care in Action. The vans bring in health-care professionals who provide pharmaceutical, physical, and mental health services. 

For those trying to help someone experiencing homelessness through outreach, the city asks them to call (562) 570-4MSC (4672), or email HomelessServices@longbeach.gov.

Other law enforcement and social service agencies have forged alliances to serve communities in this region in recent years. These include the Los Angeles Police Department’s Homeless Outreach and Proactive Engagement (HOPE) Team; Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s Homeless Outreach Services Team; Orange County Sheriff Department’s Homeless Outreach and Liaison; and homeless outreach programs at the City of Anaheim and Huntington Beach.

The City of Westminster has partnered with three homeless service organizations: PATH Orange County, Central Cities Navigation Center, and BeWell Orange County. Central Cities Navigation Center is made up of the cities of Garden Grove, Westminster, and Fountain Valley. The navigation center provides emergency housing and other services to people experiencing homelessness.

Ballot Proposition to Watch In March

One ballot proposition coming up in California’s primary election day on March 5 will be Proposition 1. It will ask voters to approve a $6.4 billion bond for treatment beds and housing units for people with mental illnesses and addictions. It would also restructure current funding to bring in more mental health funds toward housing. There’s been a growing concern that much of the state’s homeless population does struggle with mental health issues, along with alcoholism and drug addiction.

Supporters include Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D), Santa Monica City Council, and Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis (D); and Blue Shield of California, California Professional Firefighters, California Business Roundtable, California Chamber of Commerce, League of California Cities, and National Alliance on Mental Illness California, according to Ballotpedia.

“Together they will build out voluntary housing, reprioritize resources to those with the greatest needs, and provide a true safety net to prevent the many people falling through the cracks that we see today,” Talamantes Eggman said.

Opponents include State Senator Brian Jones (R) and State Assemblymember Diane Dixon (R). Organizations include Cal Voices, Disability Rights California, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, League of Women Voters of California, and Mental Health America of California.

“Proposition 1 doubles the state’s administrative costs for the Mental Health Services Act from 5% to 10%, sucking $140 million per year away from county-level services. Then Prop. 1 diverts another 30% of mental health program funding to other programs,” said Paul Simmons, a director of Californians Against Proposition 1.

 

Jon LeSage is a resident of Long Beach and a veteran business media reporter and editor. You can reach him at jtlesage1@yahoo.com.

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