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Every year in Long Beach, approximately 4,000 individuals will find themselves homeless, dreaming about a stable and safe place to call home. Nearly 20,000 more families in our city live on the brink of homelessness where a job loss, a health emergency, or a change in family situation can lead to the loss of their housing.

Everyone has the potential to fall on hard times. As a city, we want to ensure that our residents have a safety net in place, can find immediate shelter when they need it, and have access to services that will help them get back on their feet. Right now, we have very few places people can turn to for help.

I’m proud that our City Council voted unanimously to purchase property in North Long Beach for a year-round homeless shelter. I believe this is a groundbreaking first step towards creating a critical safety net for all Long Beach residents.

I know from personal experience that one’s life can dramatically change in an instant. Growing up in a household with a working single mom, my family faced many struggles. We often moved, not fully knowing how long we would be there or where we were going next. I longed for stability and for an opportunity to put roots in place.

Those who find themselves homeless have that same dream — that someday, they will have a chance to turn their lives around. Like Will, age 21, who fell into substance abuse and lost ties to his family. He found himself homeless in Long Beach. With the help of temporary housing and treatment at the Beacon House in San Pedro, he began to turn his life around. He is now attending Harbor College and reconnected to his family members.

Or William, a first generation Salvadoran American, local community organizer, and spoken word artist who became homeless after struggles with health issues and job loss. He received a Housing Choice voucher from our Housing Authority and now has found housing in Long Beach.

Both of these young men have big dreams for their future, but they needed help to get back on the right path. The year-round shelter will help provide immediate support for people who are chronically homeless and provide a safety net for people who fall on hard times, whether it be leaving an abusive relationship, loss of a job, or eviction.

Last year, I challenged our city to do more to solve our housing crisis. I challenged our city to pursue innovative ideas and an inventive approach to homelessness and housing affordability. With this investment, Long Beach has the opportunity to become a model for other cities to follow.

The shelter is an essential first step to solve an immediate crisis, but we need to continue focusing on policies that ensure people don’t fall into homelessness in the first place. We need to create new job opportunities and increase wages. We need to identify local funding sources to create more access to permanent supportive, workforce, and affordable housing options. We also need to support families by expanding child care opportunities and ensuring our schools and colleges have the support they need to serve those who are experiencing homelessness.

We can't do this alone. We need Everyone In and involved.

I’m asking you to become an advocate by participating in the Everyone Home Long Beach efforts. Next week, we’ll be hosting a community storytelling event in partnership with Everyone In, United Way of Greater Los Angeles's campaign to end homelessness across L.A. County. The event, called Everyone In: Stories from the Frontline — Long Beach, is free and open to the public and will take place at the Museum of Latin American Art on from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26. You’ll have the opportunity to hear from people in our community who have experienced homelessness or housing instability. I hope you’ll take the chance to listen to these inspiring stories of strength and perseverance.

Rex Richardson is the Ninth District Long Beach City Councilman and Chair of the Long Beach Housing Authority.

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