We want to take a moment to recognize the Mayor and Long Beach City Council for taking important safety precautions to protect our neighbors living on the street in the midst of this pandemic. They have opened new shelters while implementing social distancing within those shelters, and have increased volunteer opportunities and staff for outreach. These are critical steps. But there is so much more to be done.
People experiencing homelessness are extremely vulnerable right now, and there are many things we can do to stand up for our community. Here are the actions we propose:
- Use the millions of dollars in funding from FEMA and ESG to help place those who need it in safe non-congregate shelters.
- Enroll COVID-19 relief dollars and block grants as additional funding for acquiring spaces for people to isolate safely. It is imperative we utilize every option for safe housing. That includes hotels, motels, and any vacant property that enable access to basic services like showers and restrooms. Lives are at stake, and the resources are there to protect and house thousands more.
- Though we would love to see everyone quickly housed during this pandemic, we are aware that it is a process. That is why it’s also necessary to ramp up funding for street-level outreach in the form of mobile washrooms, free hygiene supplies, and free COVID-19 testing.
- Finally, we must not forget the thousands of renters who are on the verge of losing their homes. A well-funded rental assistance program, as well as an all-encompassing moratorium on evictions can ensure many more families make it through this pandemic safely and sheltered.
It is worth repeating that Long Beach has already taken steps to get everyone in. The Healthy LB coalition has laid out guidelines to keep many vulnerable tenants indoors. However, more action is required. If we act urgently, not only can we protect the most vulnerable in our community, but also we can make it through this pandemic a safer and more housed city.
We’re grateful to stand in solidarity with so many incredible partners, including Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, Pastor Steve Richardson of Good News Church, LiBRE, Greater Long Beach Interfaith Community Organization, Long Beach Gray Panthers, Excelerate Housing Group, Puente Latino Association, Housing Long Beach, and Long Beach Forward.