Long Beach State students took to city council Tuesday to address the needs of the homeless community and the growing housing crisis in the city.
The council approved a tenant relocation assistance program April 2, to address the housing shortage in the city. According to LBSU master’s of social work students that conducted the research, the program would eliminate income requirements and offer relocation benefits for those in need. The program will provide housing stability to senior citizens, low income residents and individuals living in housing for the homeless.
“We found that there was a great need for more awareness of the experience of people who are living in homelessness,” said Ibbett Chavez, a LBSU social work master’s student.
The LBSU research group provided 16 low income volunteers video cameras to allow them to document their personal stories.
“We hope to remove the stigma around homelessness while empowering our brothers and sisters who are experiencing it,” Chavez said. “We want to create an opportunity for people who are un-housed to share their personal stories and their perceptions.”
The group also worked with local organization Wrap the Kids and members who support tenants rights to assist in taking video of the individuals and documenting their stories.
“We partnered up with them and it’s a really good thing because it gave the homeless people a sense of duty,” said Suzanna Twaite, founder of Wrap the Kids. “It’s something to do that the people care about because they’re willing to tell their stories.”
The research group also thanked the council for creating The Everyone Home Task Force to assist in providing housing for those in need along with implementing the tenant relocation program.
“I don’t think we can ever separate that our neighbors and especially our low income neighbors, which are our cooks in our kitchens and our hotel workers and our clerks, are really suffering right now,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said at the April 2 council meeting. “There is no issue that I lose more sleep over then this issue. I wish there was as much enthusiasm to build housing as there is on this policy because everytime we try to do something toward affordable housing we get a lot of folks come out and they oppose it.”
Nearly 100 community members spoke during the public comment portion to support or oppose the issue at the council’s April 2 meeting. The council was faced with a variety of options regarding the program, including a proposed tax on all tenants to increase taxes not exceeding 10% for a 12-month period to afford the program costs and benefits.
While many members of the community were in support for homeless housing, there were members of the community who did not support the resident relocation program and the expected evictions.
“Unless Long Beach places a freeze on rent increases and evictions, all renters are in jeopardy during this period,” Maria Lopez, director of community organizing said in a press release. “We have tenants who are currently experiencing no-fault evictions and are demanding a halt to rent increases and evictions while this is being settled.”
The next city council meeting will be held on April 16 at 5 p.m. at Long Beach City Hall. A special session will begin at 3:30 p.m. to discuss the future of Long Beach Animal Care Services.