Conoley and Garcia

Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley and Mayor Robert Garcia meet Wednesday to talk about a new task force about homelessness.

Long Beach’s top education, community, business and service provider leaders will spend part of their summers looking for new, innovative solutions to homelessness.

Wednesday, Mayor Robert Garcia and Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley announced creation of Everyone Home Long Beach. It will be a 30-member task force charged with reviewing current efforts, studying best practices and offering a new strategic plan for helping Long Beach’s homeless population. They also will look at ways to help people “on the brink” avoid becoming homeless.

“This is a statewide crisis,” Garcia said. “There’s no bigger issue. From a moral standpoint, the situation is unacceptable…

“Everyone Home LB will elevate the conversation beyond the work we’re doing now. Not only will we be looking to do more, but to do it together.”

President Conoley will chair the task force. She said she and her colleagues are dealing with students who are food insecure and/or homeless almost every day.

“I recently convened a meeting in my home with some new faculty members and leaders of some of our service providers,” Conoley said. “It was great to see people passionate about finding new ways to help. It’s certainly the moral issue of our time.”

Garcia said that Andy Kerr will serve as vice chair of Everybody Home LB. Kerr is Long Beach’s representative on the Los Angeles County Measure H Citizens’ Oversight Advisory Board, where decisions are made about how the sales tax revenue from Measure H is spent.

A wide spectrum of Long Beach leaders have agreed to be part of the task force, Garcia said. Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent Chris Steinhauser will participate, as will Long Beach City College President/Superintendent Reagan Romali. CEOs of both Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Dignity Health St. Mary Medical Center, John Bishop and Carolyn Caldwell, respectively, are on the task force, too.

Service providers will play a large role, with presidents or CEOs of Mental Health America, the Villages at Cabrillo, Goodwill SOLAC and others at the task force table. The chair of the Homeless Services Advisory Committee, Jeff Johnson, will attend, as will department heads.

“We want this task force to bring the boldest, most innovative, most compassionate plan it can,” Garcia said. “We’ll look at best practices too. Long Beach is already doing amazing work — we want to find ways to amplify it.”

While there will be task force meetings to hear reports and conduct debate, there also will be meetings to talk with those experiencing homelessness, Garcia said. To understand all sides of the issues, it’s important to engage students, homeless individuals, tenants and property owners, he said.

In addition to housing and providing help to those already homeless, the task force must address two other issues, Garcia and Conoley agreed.

First, the connection between homelessness and the lack of affordable housing must be addressed. Solving that lack of housing would go a long way towards reducing homelessness, Garcia said.

Next, Long Beach must find ways to help those teetering on the brink of homelessness. Helping people who are one car accident, one illness, one missed paycheck away from losing their homes must be assisted in order to stop the homelessness cycle.

“At the student level, we’ve developed a comprehensive assistance approach,” Conoley said. “Early intervention is by far the cheapest way to deal with homelessness.”

Garcia said he would ask the task force to work through the summer and into the fall to create the Everybody Home LB plan. No meeting schedule has been set yet.

“People are sleeping on the streets,” Garcia said as he left the room. “Women, children, families. That’s not acceptable.”

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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