As members of The Villages at Cabrillo Collaborative, we are compelled to address the points raised by our neighbor, P. West, whose thoughts regarding the homelessness situation in Long Beach were recently published in the Gazette as “Another View: Concerns about Homelessness.” We appreciate any effort to address homelessness, and we hope to shed some light upon P. West’s conclusion that nobody in our city cares or is doing anything about it.
The Collaborative is a group of agencies all deeply tied to the community we call The Villages at Cabrillo. The Villages is a unique community comprised of approximately 1,500 veterans, children and families who have previously experienced homelessness. This is their home, their neighborhood, and they live together in a mix of permanent and transitional housing. The Collaborative includes providers of primary health, early education, treatment of family violence, mental health, substance abuse recovery and much more. In short, we are a motley group, and we each play a unique role in assisting people transitioning from living on the streets to living in a home.
This transition is a process, it is complicated and it is not always easy; however, we continue to work each and every day at The Villages at Cabrillo and throughout the city to help our neighbors not only find homes, but also remain in those homes for the long haul.
In other words: We care, too.
We agree with you, P. West, that as a community, we have not yet solved the issue of homelessness. However, with all that is currently happening in our city to address this issue, we believe we are getting closer every day.
Last year, we partnered with the city of Long Beach on the Mayor’s Everyone Home Task Force, which put forth recommendations that the city has been quick to consider and address. This year, our city saw a marginal increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness per our most recent Homeless Count, but we also saw an eight percent decrease in the number of chronically homeless individuals.
We must speak in terms of progress, rather than perfection. This is true for our case management staff and their individual clients, and this is true of the homelessness issue as a whole. For example, a person might misuse substances to cope with depression, anxiety and/or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder while transitioning out of homelessness. Research tells us that it would be unrealistic to expect this individual to stop misusing substances immediately after moving into their first home in years; however, over time and as that person adjusts, we might see a gradual reduction in that behavior. This is progress.
Similarly, it would be unreasonable for us to expect the city to move the 1,894 individuals experiencing homelessness out of their present living situation and into a housing program overnight. What we can reasonably expect is that the city will continue to make progress on an issue that has been decades in the making. For example, we are now closer than ever to achieving zero homelessness in our Veteran population. Additionally, a year-round, bridge housing site is now in the works, the first municipal site of its kind in Long Beach. Hundreds of affordable housing units broke ground in the last year, and hundreds more are on the way.
In addition to lack of housing, other factors that cause homelessness include mental health, job loss, lacking a support network or loss of a support network, physical health issues, family violence, poverty and a host of other events.
Every individual who experiences homelessness has a unique set of circumstances that brought them to that period of time. The individuals we tend to hear most about — much like those cited in P. West’s opinion piece — include the aforementioned person struggling with substance misuse or the person who has not been able to access a shower for a length of time walking through downtown Long Beach.
The truth is, anyone can experience homelessness. In fact, our current homeless population includes a noteworthy increase in individuals who are more than 62 years of age and are living on the street for the first time. You might not be aware that you actually know someone who has lived homeless and who doesn’t fit into your perception of what homelessness looks like.
We have students in Long Beach living out of their cars; we have Veterans moving from place to place looking for work; we have seniors in Long Beach who have lost their homes due to lack of income; and we also have a plethora of volunteers, social workers, case managers and concerned citizens who have come out on the other side of their episode of homelessness and now donate their time and energy to helping the cause.
Knowing how much is actually being done to eventually solve this issue is much more reassuring than not knowing and feeling frustrated that nothing is being done. That said, the following suggestions are for P. West and any other reader who would like a more in depth understanding of our perspective on this issue:
• Visit us at The Villages at Cabrillo for a tour and to learn how you can get directly involved with assisting our most vulnerable neighbors.
• Contact the Long Beach Multi-Service Center at 562-570-4500 to request a tour and learn more about the city’s coordinated efforts to address the issue of homelessness.
• Attend a Long Beach Homeless Coalition meeting to learn more about the wide range of service providers who are working together to support people experiencing homelessness.
• Remain up to date with the significant progress we have made via the Everyone Home Task Force: www.longbeach.gov/everyone-home-long-beach/
Together, we can solve this.
The Villages at Cabrillo Collaborative is a partnership of 35 dedicated agencies working together to promote the healthy transformation of individuals, families, and the community. The VACC includes the following as representatives of their respective organizations or agencies: Dora Jacildo, Executive Director, Comprehensive Child Development, VACC Chair; Nancy Albin, Executive Director, Los Angeles Habilitation House; Cheryl Mcknight, California State University Dominguez Hills; Carina Sass, California State University, Long Beach; Shari Weaver, Executive Director, Harbor Interfaith; Brittnee Hill, PATH; Walt Dannenberg, VA; Dr. Elisa Nicholas, Executive Director, The Children’s Clinic; Claudia Sosa-Valderrama, Long Beach Head Start; Bruce Hackman, Catholic Charities; Guyton Colantuono, Hacienda of Hope; Kena Liggins Thompson, US Vets; and Jessie D’Agostino, VA.