Newport Beach Reduces Homelessness During Pandemic

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A tent set up at the bus station in Newport Beach. — File photo by Lawrence Sherwin

Newport Beach has reduced the number of people experiencing homelessness in Newport Beach by 50 percent or more since March and is completing discussions with the City of Costa Mesa on a regional partnership for shelter services, according to a report presented to the City Council on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Many previously homeless individuals and families in Newport Beach have been sheltered in motels during the past several months under the statewide initiative known as Project Roomkey. Others were placed into sober-living facilities, supportive housing, congregate living and other housing arrangements.

As a result, City staff estimates the number of homeless individuals in Newport Beach, which fluctuated between about 60 and 70 in early 2020, is between 20 and 30 as of October 2020.

A homeless person sleeps by the Newport Beach Transportation Center in February. — Photo by Lawrence Sherwin

Among other highlights of the Oct. 27 update on homelessness strategies:

  • 33 people were housed in motels under Project Roomkey during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the program ended Sept. 30, all 33 continue to stay in the motels while they transition into permanent living arrangements.
  • 1,287 outreach meetings were conducted with homeless individuals since March. Multiple outreach meetings are often necessary with each person to build trust and connect them to support services and, ultimately, permanent housing.
  • A longtime Newport Beach resident who had been homeless for six years was enrolled into a sober living home and remains employed full-time after successfully completing a detox program.
  • A veteran who had been living in a tent near the Balboa Pier for three years was placed into a new supportive housing facility for veterans in Santa Ana, where he is now living.
  • A family of four that had been living in a van was placed into permanent housing after a brief motel stay.
  • Several people have been rejoined with out-of-state family members after becoming homeless in Newport Beach.
  • Newport Beach staff are selecting a recommended developer to build up to 50 units of permanent, supportive housing in the City. Staff expects to present a qualified developer for City Council consideration in early 2021.

The City utilizes an interdepartmental Rapid Response Team to quickly address homeless issues and related concerns. The team includes a full-time Homeless Coordinator and a Homeless Liaison Officer from the Police Department. These efforts are supplemented with contracted support from City Net, a homeless outreach agency, and Orange County social service agencies.

Newport Beach and City Net staff work together to engage regularly with homeless individuals and direct them to appropriate county, state and federal resources with a goal of permanently sheltering all those who are experiencing homelessness.

In addition, the City’s efforts continue on long-term strategies to combat homelessness.

City staff anticipates the Newport Beach City Council will consider a partnership agreement with the City of Costa Mesa for shelter services on Nov. 10. The Costa Mesa temporary shelter, now under construction is part of a regional approach that will help direct people experiencing homelessness to appropriate county, state and federal resources.

The City is also evaluating developer proposals for partnerships in the building of permanent supportive housing, which is affordable housing with onsite services. The Cove, a 12-unit housing complex for military veterans, is an example of permanent supportive housing in Newport Beach.

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