Homelessness is a state and national crisis, and the most pressing issue facing our city. Over the last year, Long Beach has housed more than 1,100 people who were experiencing homelessness, and we have housed more than 5,000 people in the last five years. This progress is significant and would not be possible without the hard work of our city homeless services team and our community partners.
A few months ago, the Long Beach City Council adopted the Everyone Home Long Beach Initiative, a comprehensive plan to make the experience of homelessness in Long Beach rare and brief when it occurs. One of the key recommendations of the plan was to create a year-round homeless shelter. This aligned with the goal to create a new municipal shelter announced in the State of the City address a year ago.
Last week, Long Beach took a tremendous step forward in ensuring that everyone in our city has a home. We’ve secured a location for our first year-round city shelter. This is just one part of the work we have ahead of us, but it’s a crucially important one.
North Long Beach will host a campus with services to not only help get residents off the streets but provide supports for reintegrating into the community and rebuilding a meaningful life. The city of Long Beach has a rare opportunity to build a national model for sheltering our most vulnerable neighbors, one that is compassionate, comprehensive, and effective. Services on the new three-acre campus on Atlantic Avenue in North Long Beach will help connect people with educational and employment opportunities, mental health and medical services, and transitional housing.
And unlike most shelters, this one also will be pet-friendly, removing a barrier that actually keeps many people from coming indoors. Every pet lover knows how important the family dog or cat can be, and for people living on the street, a pet is sometimes their closest — or only — companion. Providing shelter that doesn’t require people to abandon their companion will make a big difference in many lives.
In addition, this new shelter will accept all people — including LGBTQ youth and adults.
We want to thank the City Council for their support of these efforts, but especially Councilmember Rex Richardson for providing outstanding leadership in advocating for this campus to be in his Council District in North Long Beach. We also appreciate that his advocacy has led to the removal of the adjacent liquor store when the campus opens next year.
We also want to recognize Supervisor Janice Hahn and the County of LA, who will partner with us on the site to ensure a model program, as well as California’s Mayors, who lobbied the State of California for the additional funds used to purchase the site. And, of course, this couldn’t have happened without the great team at the city, who worked so diligently to identify and purchase an appropriate site.
We’re also very optimistic about Governor Newsom’s strong stance on housing. He’s already showing that this will be a priority for his administration, and we firmly support that.
The Long Beach community has responded positively to the call to create a shelter and the recommendations from the Everyone Home Taskforce, coming together with ideas, support and enthusiasm. Our thanks to all those who came together to make this a reality — not only the members of the Taskforce, who volunteered their time and expertise to lead this process, but all the local residents, advocates and service providers who continue to support the Everyone Home Initiative with their passion, ideas and energy.
Long Beach is a statewide leader in the fight against homelessness, and in the months and years ahead we have an opportunity to make even more progress. Our commitment to you is that we, and the institutions we represent, will do everything in our power to make sure everyone gets home, and we ask for your support in this profoundly important endeavor.
Robert Garcia is the mayor of Long Beach, and Jane Close Conoley is the president of Cal State Long Beach and chair of the Everyone Home Taskforce.