As a coalition of individuals and agencies providing services to Long Beach residents who are experiencing homelessness, we were disappointed that the Gazette chose to print an uninformed, one-sided attack on city services as though it were a thoughtful opinion worth consideration.
“Another View: Concerns About Homelessness” by our neighbor, P. West, is not the first, fifth, or even the hundredth time we have had misinformation regarding homelessness in Long Beach presented as informed, insightful criticism. And unfortunately, it won’t be the last.
P. West, we hear you. Quality of life issues are real, because they influence the perception of our city as a whole. We hear you, and we’d like to inform you of a few things (well, a lot of things), that you should know:
• The city of Long Beach is actually a national leader in addressing homelessness, seeing decreases or no change in street homelessness while neighboring cities and counties are seeing huge jumps.
• Yes, lack of housing is a significant driver of homelessness, but it is not the only factor. Trauma (childhood or adult), exit from foster care, job loss, death of a spouse or family member, release from incarceration without stable housing, mental illness, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, loss of family support and a host of other factors and decisions contribute to homelessness.
• The Long Beach Multi-Service Center (MSC) provides more than 13,000 service contacts each year.
• Our Long Beach Police Department fields Quality of Life officers specially trained to interact with people experiencing street homelessness. LBPD is following federal, state and city laws — as well as court rulings — in doing its best to protect the right of all of our citizens.
• Our Fire Department has the HEART team for the same purpose. Numerous partner agencies serve hundreds of people experiencing homelessness every single day.
• Just under half of the units of housing that broke ground this year in Long Beach are affordable units. And more are in the works.
• Our city government is not run by Mayor Garcia. Long Beach has a City Council-City Management structure. The Mayor does have input, but the City Manager runs day-to-day operations.
• In 2018, Mayor Garcia assembled the Everyone Home Task Force, and the recommendations from the members have been quickly turning into policy that will result in our ability to even better meet the needs of our neighbors without homes.
We don’t expect every resident to know about all that, especially those who are new to Long Beach, but we would expect a person to research our city government and Homeless Services before writing to the Gazette, and for the Gazette to use some discernment and to do its due diligence to ensure the people do not believe opinions are facts.
For example, we found it disappointing the Gazette would run an op-ed calling for “social workers” to address the issue of homelessness, as though there are not already scores of social workers — and nurses, doctors, tutors, rehab therapists, case managers, volunteers, etc. — providing such services every day.
A big part of the solution to homelessness is to ensure residents and policy-makers have solid information with which to form opinions. The Gazette has long reported on homeless issues and we hope in the future the publication will ensure op-ed pieces are grounded in fact and some minimal level of research. Our most vulnerable residents, and the countless professionals who serve them every day, truly deserve better.
Finally, to P. West and any reader who shares your misguided perspective on this issue: it would be our pleasure to have you as a guest and participant at our monthly Long Beach Homeless Coalition General Meeting, where you will not only learn about ongoing, collaborative efforts to serve individuals experiencing homelessness in Long Beach, but you can also join the conversation and get directly involved yourself.
Our website is www.homelesslb.org, and we hope to see you next month.