For the most part, this weekend has been quiet. The best thing I had to talk about a few days ago was doing homework, and one of the most exciting things I did recently was put my binders together for the semester.
But tonight my Mom pointed out a meeting dedicated to learning all about the homeless situation in the South Bay. Much more interesting writing fodder in a traditionally journalistic manner.
My interest was piqued two-fold. I spent a good amount of time covering homelessness about a year-and-a-half ago for Bonnie’s Investigative Reporting class.
So I have some experience in the subject, and wanted to see things happening much closer to home.
The event was held at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse, which is literally five minutes away from my house.
In addition, I’m able to write off the whole experience as research, networking and sourcing for Gladeo. I’m on the clock for my internship class, so I’m looking to do as much extra work as possible.
That more cynical reason aside, I did learn a good amount and picked up a whole host of documents:
The panel was hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Beach Cities.
There were seven speakers on the panel who each gave spiels and answered a few audience at the end.
First came Jennifer Lamarque and Ivan Sulak from the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn. Hahn was apparently slated to come earlier on but had to drop out, sending representatives instead.
Most of the discussion coming from Sulak, who is the supervisor for housing and homelessness in the 4th District. He was also apparently homeless himself.
He talked all about different initiatives being worked on across the District. The growth of a year-round shelter, more Emergency Response Team development and pushing more housing projects. A veteran-focused project in Downey, student-focused housing in Whittier and more.
“The end of homelessness is to get people in houses,” he said before delving more into the fact that homeless people on the streets are just a snapshot, as the issue has “many different faces.”
That snapshot came more into focus with the next speaker: Ashley Oh with the LA County Homeless Initiative: Measure H.
Because homeless counts for 2019 only occurred within the last week or so, the numbers we got tonight are technically outdated.
More to come from people like my friend Spencer over in Orange County.
Support local papers, y’all. Nudge, nudge.
That said, Oh pointed out that in 2018 there were more than 52,000 homeless individuals counted in LA County, with ~40,000 not sheltered. She said that was the first year in eight with an overall decrease.
One of the most interesting things about this event for me was seeing the break-down at a local level with some places I actually know a thing or two about.
I picked up a document from the South Bay Coalition to End Homelessness outlining findings from the 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count which said Redondo Beach had 154 homeless, half in vehicles and half on the street.
Though it’s great that the number was down about 41 percent from 2017, there’s clearly still a long way to go. Over 150 people is nothing to scoff at.
From there the discussion went more into Measure H, a pretty big initiative here in the South Bay.
Oh mentioned that 51 strategies to combat homelessness have been developed which fit into six categories, including prevention, more affordable housing and increasing income.
That last point in particular led to discussions of working, as she pointed out that “most people think these homeless are comfortable living off government money, but that’s not true. Many want to work.”
Those three speakers had the most general information to hand out, so I figured I’d give the rest more of a quick-fire treatment.
Shari Weaver from Harbor Interfaith Services talked about her group’s more intimate outreach work, claiming that their 40 or so staff members know about 80 percent of the unsheltered homeless in the beach cities.
She also brought the feel-good stories, such as that of a client who they housed that had lost his home in the recent Paradise fires.
Weaver was followed up by representatives of the Cities of Manhattan and Hermosa Beach who talked about city governments creating homeless plans, including a $150,000 multi-jurisdiction proposal between them and Redondo Beach that got funded by Measure H on January 24.
Finally, a lieutenant with the Manhattan Beach Police Department talked about officers across the beach cities working on more “holistic approachs” of homeless outreach on top of their usual enforcement.
All that remained was the Q&A, which was relatively short. It was hilariously obvious that most of the questions came from older members of the audience who simply do not like the homeless population being around.
Watching the panelists have to explain that private churches would be allowed to help the homeless whether or not there was a “centralized gathering location” to feed the needy was pretty great.
In the end I didn’t have too much of a chance to talk to people after the event, but if nothing else I gathered a lot of names, contacts and general information for the future.
Plus I got a two-hour addition to my internship log while rubbing shoulders with folks like Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand.
So who knows, even if I get no Gladeo interviews out of this, it could be handy if I ever break into covering homelessness again.
Either way, I’d say this was an educational night well spent.