Long Beach

Case worker ‘reassigned' after speaking out on 20 deaths of homeless housed at Long Beach-owned facility

Danya Dominguez, along with former case worker D'Andre Beckham, spoke with NBC on Wednesday about their efforts to sound the alarm on the several deaths that have happened at a homeless transition center.

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A case worker who spoke out this week about what she witnessed at a Long Beach homeless transition center said she has been told to leave her job at Project Home Key.

Danya Dominguez told NBC4 Thursday morning that she was told to "leave work."

"I was reassigned from my position at PHK today," Dominguez wrote in a text to NBC4. She worked for a temporary agency employed by the city of Long Beach. She still was waiting on possible reassignment Friday and fears it could mean she is out of a job. 

Just two days before, she and former case worker D'Andre Beckham spoke to NBC4 about the 20 deaths of clients enrolled at the facility in the past three years.  They say they expressed concerns and raised red flags about the lack of staffing and resources after three clients died of overdose and chronic illnesses back to back in two weeks. Both said they alerted the non-profit that ran the facility and Long Beach Homeless Bureau Manager, Paul Duncan, of the high death rate and lack of resources, but they said nothing was done.

Dominguez said three more people died from the facility after their meeting with Duncan.

"The site manager told me Paul and other city officials asked her to ask me to leave," wrote Dominguez of her in-person meeting with on-site manager Pamela Martinez. We reached out to Martinez for comment and have yet to hear back.

NBC4 has reached out to the City of Long Beach for comment on whether there was a reassignment and if Duncan ordered it, but the city has yet to respond.

The city released a statement a week ago, saying that the facility "prioritized people who are older and people with chronic or terminal health conditions." Dominguez and Beckham said this is why the facility needed more medical assistants and drug addiction specialists.

"You had one medical assistant for over 100 people," said Beckham.

The City of Long Beach confirmed one medical assistant was among the 17-member staff. The city said the facility also has "support from nurse students and field instructors from Long Beach City College, 'Healthcare in Action' (mobile primary care) has been seeing a few people on site and multiple people are receiving care through Echo Hospice."

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 "The leading cause of death, where a cause was identified, was cancer," the city statement said. "Eight of the 20 deaths occurred on-site and at least 11 people died offsite," mostly in hospitals. 

"We made it a point to meet with higher-ups. We made it a point to meet with Paul Duncan," said Beckham. "We expressed our issues. We expressed our concerns. We let him know the amount of people that were dying within the facility. He got very political. He didn’t give us any straightforward answers and even though we went in-depth with it, he kind of laughed us off."

Dominguez and Beckham met with the nonprofit, Illumination Foundation, which operated the facility, twice in 2023.

Emails obtained by NBC4 indicate executives with the Illumination Foundation alerted Duncan of their concerns about the lack of additional medical assistants and drug addiction counselors.

NBC4 reached out to Illumination Foundation for comment last week and Tuesday, but has not received a response.

Illumination Foundation ended its contract with the city in February and a new nonprofit, First to Serve, Inc., has been hired to operate the facility.

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