Joe Ganem

Joe Ganem III said homelessness is a big part of his life.

Although retired, he serves on three Long Beach boards fighting the issue — Homeless Services Advisory Committee, Continuum of Care and the Long Beach Area Commission on Homeless — and is planning a summit on the topic this fall.

No firm date for the Homeless Summit has been set, but Ganem said he wants to get the city’s homeless services on the same page — to collaborate and forge a common direction. He also said he want to inform residents about the issue.

“We need to have the common objective of getting these people into homes so they can reclaim their lives,” Ganem said. “It’s a huge issue and it won’t happen overnight. It takes a concerted effort to get everyone moving in the same direction.”

He said he began discussing ideas with local officials and other organizations almost a year ago. He also started monthly planning meetings last month with representatives from various groups, including local officials, the city Health Department, Continuum of Care and more.

Organizations invited to the summit include the Disabled Resource Center, Downtown Long Beach Associates, Convention & Visitors Bureau; city departments, including health, police, housing authority and others; local and state officials; and more.

“It’s not like I can’t sit down and have a plan,” Ganem said. “But I wanted this to be a project others have a part in… This should be more of a community effort.”

There were 1,513 unsheltered homeless people in the city, according to the Department of Health and Human Services biennial count in 2015. That number is better compared to 2013’s count of 1,879 and 2,203 in 2011. Sheltered (emergency, transitional housing and safe haven) homeless numbers were 2,345 in 2015; 2,847 in 2013; and 961 in 2011. Numbers in permanent housing were 1,214, 854 and 438, respectively.

The numbers have improved.

“Over the last three years, having visited a number of these operations (homeless services) around town, it began to occur to me we were making headway,” Ganem said. “But from the standpoint of those of us who live downtown, there was something that seemed amiss.”

Homeless counts could be inaccurate.

“It’s just a point in time count,” Ganem said. “If you blink, the number might change.”

The city has placed a big emphasis on resources for homeless veterans, Ganem said.

“Quite frankly, it’s getting done,” he said. “We’re at a functional zero… Those who want it (housing), we have a place for them.”

However there are other homeless, Ganem said, and issues associated with being homeless, including how to make a bed and shop for food.

“You need to have the supportive services, where they can live their life,” Ganem said.

It’s part of the educational piece, Ganem said.

“There are a number of groups that want to help, but sometimes what they do inadvertently enables them (homeless) to live on the street,” he said. “You feed them, but there’s no connection to counseling or other services… All you’ve done is encourage that behavior.”

In place of handing out food, money or other items to someone, Ganem said people should donate to a local service organization. In turn, that organization will be able to provide other assistance, especially after the summit outlines a clear direction.

To be a part of the summit, contact Ganem at joe@ganem.net.

Emily is a staff writer covering higher education and other various topics for Gazette Newspapers. She has a background in weekly and daily newspapers and a bachelor’s in communication from La Sierra University.

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