The homeless population in Laguna shares the desire for a safe place to sleep, adequate food, and better medical and mental health services, according to a Mission Hospital survey.
In all, 55 face-to-face surveys were completed among the homeless in Laguna Beach, 20% of whom grew up in town. Twenty-two of the interviewees were residents of Friendship Shelter, and 36 were “unsheltered,” sleeping in parks and on beaches or other public property before the ACT V haven was opened. Responses to the survey on their needs differed between the two groups.
One need will be addressed starting Monday.
“We will be providing the sack lunches at ACT V,” hospital Healthy Communities Manager George Avial said Wednesday at a public presentation of the survey findings.
The contents will have to pass muster with the hospital nutritionist.
Kathryn Doe, who attended the presentation, said it would be better to include food the homeless will eat rather than what the nutritionist thinks would be good for them.
The assessment of the needs of the homeless was conducted concurrently with the telephone interviews of the general population, which resulted in 401 completed assessments.
About three-quarters of the unsheltered rated local programs and shelters for the homeless as poor or at best fair, with the caveat that the survey was conducted before ACT V was operational.
Only 23% of Friendship Shelter residents gave homeless programs a bad rating. However, 41% of the general population perceived the programs as fair or poor.
Forty-seven percent of the 36 unsheltered homeless interviewed reported having family in town. Fifty-five percent of those living at Friendship Shelter have family here.
Ninety percent of the unsheltered homeless came to Laguna from other parts of Orange County, and 70% were homeless before arriving here. Forty-three percent came to town within the six months prior to the survey.
Seventy-five percent of Friendship Shelter residents came from Orange County, and 76% were homeless before being accepted at the shelter. Fifty-five percent of the residents came to town within the last six months before the survey — 12% higher than the unsheltered homeless.
And 55% of them have family in town, 8% more than the unsheltered.
Friendship Shelter residents rated health care and medication as the top need, followed by sleeping arrangements, housing, jobs and dental care. The street population interviewed before ACT V opened put sleeping space at the top of their needs. Jobs came second, followed by housing and transportation.
The survey found the primary reasons for homelessness are job loss, family issues and health problems.
Laguna’s unsheltered population at the time of the survey had been homeless for a median of almost 16 months, meaning as many were homeless for less than 16 months as for more than 16 months. Friendship Shelter residents were homeless for nine months.
Twelve percent of the unsheltered reported having jobs. More than twice that many living in Friendship Shelter had jobs.
Fifty-one percent of unsheltered responders to the survey rated their overall health as poor or fair, and 34% said their mental health was poor or fair, topped by the 35% of Friendship Shelter residents who reported poor or fair mental health.
As expected, the general population had a much lower poor or fair mental or physical health rating, 8% each.
Areas of opportunity for the hospital identified by the survey included health insurance, primary medical care, substance abuse and safety.
Sixty-six percent of the homeless interviewed reported being the victim of a violent crime within the past year, compared with 1% of general population.