Humanizing homelessness in Long Beach

Joel Roberts’ LA’s Homeless Blog ran a series of posts on the effort last week in Long Beach to survey chronically homeless persons living on the streets, part of the Long Beach Connections Initiative. The goal of the survey was to identify the most vulnerable people living on the streets as part of a community-wide effort to help move them into housing. It is an approach that communities around Los Angeles and the country are employing to help the most needy – and most costly to society – and initial results from these efforts are promising. An important byproduct of the efforts is that residents are engaged as volunteers and learn first-hand about the struggles of people who are living on the streets.

In a July 21 post, Joel Roberts explains how pleasantly surprised he was at the response to a volunteer training session:

Clearly, leaders of this initiative were nervous, worried about low attendance. A small number of volunteers would’ve meant the community was not interested in addressing homelessness.

But by five minutes after the starting hour, the room was packed. Over 100 local volunteers were there—from faith groups, the local university, service agencies, businesses, and the community as a whole. There was clearly an excited buzz during the meeting.

Volunteer Richard Hackett blogged in a July 24 post how participating in the effort had changed his perspective:

The variety of circumstances surrounding the reason for each individual’s homelessness varied. I encountered those that were mentally ill, the extremely intelligent who had earned a college degree, drug and alcohol abusers, displaced family units, and those running from the law.

I found myself reflecting after a days worth of surveys, that all of these transgressions (whether their own or those against them) as bad as they might seem, are no different than some of the sins I have committed in my life. There is goodness in each of the people I met this week. I saw that during the interviews I conducted.

And in a July 26 post, Patricia Loughrey blogged how the people she met are ready for a place to live.

But Juan is ready. He is in perfect position. Slip a house around Juan and he’ll fit right in. Put an address on his front porch and he’ll be ready to wake up and walk into a new day. Juan is ready.

And Carla is ready. And Byron, and Pops, Gerald, and Peanut, Patrice and Clyde. They’re all ready. And so are the other 350 people sleeping outside this week in central Long Beach: they are ready.

Published by Bill

Social justice advocate and collaborative leader

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