Photo by Brian Addison.
Make no mistake, Long Beach: homelessness isn’t just an issue relegated to a handful of our parks. It is a countywide, statewide, and nationwide issue.
While Lincoln Park had long remained the mainstay of those experiencing homelessness, acting as makeshift-home and hangout, there is a perceived growth in homelessness in other areas due to the recent Civic Center construction that has now fenced off Lincoln Park and other areas of the Civic Center.
But perception can be tricky. It would be difficult to substantiate that the closure of Lincoln Park has led to the widespread appearance of homeless in other areas because, bluntly put, Lincoln Park was home to a steady, small amount of regulars—for lack of a better term. Even I, when heading communications at the Downtown Long Beach Alliance, began to know faces and people but the faces I see at the nearby Bixby Park where I live aren’t familiar—and they even admit they aren’t from Long Beach.
Yes, I can attest to an anecdotal increase in the presence of this alarming situation: from pop-up villages at 4th and Atlantic to underpasses throughout the city, there seems to be more humans struggling to get by.
One woman, a younger woman with a child whom I had noticed sleeping in her car in Bixby Park on the regular, talked with me openly about her situation.
“I used to live in South Central and some guy bought my complex,” she said. “I already lived paycheck-to-paycheck so when I received the notice [of the rent hike], I knew there was no other option… I am lucky: I have a car. A lotta folks don’t. So I asked [my daughter] where she wanted to live and she said, ‘The beach.’ So we came here since it is close enough for me to still commute to work.”
What we are experiencing should perhaps be less pinned on the Civic Center construction and more focused on larger issues at hand: the exorbitant rise in the cost of living throughout the state, the lack of housing being built statewide, and—perhaps most key—our lack of compassion for the issue at hand where we refuse to pay attention to the most important aspect of all and that is the fact that we are dealing with humans.
Which is why local activist and nonprofit guru Justin Rudd is creating a town hall to discuss homelessness with some of the city’s leading advocates on the issue—but leading it with one thing in mind: compassion.
“I see homeless men and women regularly at Riley’s Red Wagon Book Swap [in Belmont Shore],” Rudd said. “There, I make it a point to engage with them. I want to help when I can with clothing, food, and toiletries. The positive interactions that I’ve had makes me want to share opportunities with others. People have told me about some social media outlets where there is a lot of complaining and hatred toward the homeless. My thought was to put together a forum that would offer a more compassionate and helpful approach.”
Enter the Compassionate Town Hall: Homelessness in Long Beach, set to take place on January 30 from 7PM to 9PM at the Bay Shore Church in Long Beach, for which free tickets can be purchased here.
With over 20 speakers from various fields of profession dealing with homelessness—from the nonprofit to private sectors, outreach agencies to public emergency responders—the town hall is set to both answer simple questions while addressing complex concerns. [Disclosure: our editor and the author of this article, Brian Addison, is set to be one of the speakers at the event. He will be addressing media and how reporting styles and click-baiting can lead to a setback in actually helping the homeless.]
“I think it’s important to help people who might be down on their luck,” Rudd said. “I’ve worked with many of the agencies in our city that help the homeless and I wanted to bring as many of those players together so that others can hear what is being done—and what we can do further to help those in need.”
Compassionate Town Hall: Homelessness in Long Beach is free and open to the public though tickets are required via here. It will take place on Monday, January 30, from 7PM to 9PM at the Bay Shore Church located at 5100 E The Toledo. For more information, click here.