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Huntington Beach PD hosts multiple-site event Sunday to foster discussions on homelessness

A homeless man seen during a Huntington Beach police Homeless Task Force visit at  Edison Park in February.
A homeless man seen during a Huntington Beach Homeless Task Force visit at Edison Park in February. HBPD is hosting a “Park Walk-Along” Sunday to educate and outreach about local homelessness.
(File Photo)

In the six months since Huntington Beach opened the doors of a newly built navigation center — which provides temporary housing and services for individuals experiencing homelessness — hundreds of people have taken shelter from the streets.

While the center can serve up to 174 people, its current population is around 85, city officials report. But for every person residing on site, there are many more who continue to live in unsafe scenarios or have not yet been helped by existing services and programs.

“Every individual is different — there’s not one cause of homelessness,” said Huntington Beach Police Sgt. Roman Altenbach, supervisor of a citywide task force formed in 2016 to provide a responsive and proactive approach to addressing homelessness.

“It really runs the gamut,” he continued, listing addiction and mental health issues as only two of many contributing factors. “Some people are down on their luck. Other individuals want zero help. Getting to know these people is really what helps down the line.”

Population counts conducted in 2019 identified 290 unhoused individuals in Huntington Beach. Since the pandemic, complaints about the impact of transient populations on parks and other areas have been on the rise, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the homeless population itself has grown, said Lt. Dave Dereszynski, who manages the Homeless Task Force.

“With everybody out of school and at home or not working, we definitely saw an increase in complaints and calls for service,” he said.

Case manager Hayley Yantorn confirmed that the number of efforts aimed at preventing residents from becoming homeless also increased during the pandemic.

To provide a bridge of information and resources between the homeless population and the general public, the Huntington Beach Police Department on Sunday will host a daylong “Park Walk-Along” in five different geographic regions of the city and encourages residents to participate.

A homeless person at Huntington Central Park in March.
A homeless person at Huntington Central Park in March. Members of Huntington Beach’s Homeless Task Force will make several appearances Sunday in a rotating “Park Walk-Along” to address homelessness.
(File Photo)

Police officers and civilian case managers who coordinate care and response through the Homeless Task Force will be on hand to hear questions and concerns and provide updates on the latest outreach efforts.

They’ll discuss how the task force works with the city’s Public Works and Community Services departments, among others, to provide a compassionate approach to serving all segments of the population and share more on what residents can do to help those in need.

The event begins at the Pier Plaza, from 8 to 9:15 a.m., and from there moves to Edison Park, from 9:45 to 11 a.m., then to Central Park, from 11:20 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., and Greer Park, from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m., before concluding at Linear Park-Sunset Beach, from 3:15 to 4:20 p.m.

For more, visit huntingtonbeachca.gov/homelessness or call (714) 536-5553.

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