The city of Long Beach could be taking a new approach to how it plans to help the homeless in the city as it unveiled a possible day-work program to help those on the streets get back on their feet.
The proposal to examine the feasibility of such a program was brought forward by four council members led by Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price who said the program, which is still in its infancy stages, could help in a variety of ways not limited to putting money in homeless people’s pockets.
“The end game is to give them tools and the opportunity,” Price said. “That’s the key. We offer a lot of services but the day program is an opportunity to earn a wage and I think by doing that we’ll hopefully get folks who are motivated to change their life circumstance and have the support of the city to do so. Therefore they won’t live on the streets.”
A discussion about how the program could work leaned toward partnering with a non-profit and combining a fundraising element to provide the pool of cash that could go toward paying any interested workers. Price said a sustained funding structure would have to be in place as any pilot program would unlikely be funded by the city’s general fund.
Interested persons would be screened by the city and directed to participating departments where they could perform work for the city and be compensated for it. It’s unclear what the wages charged would be but the state minimum wage increased to $11 per hour January 1.
The hope is that the process of doing the outreach and linking up with homeless persons who are trying to get off the streets will be able to provide them spending money to possibly buy clothes for job interviews, it could also spread awareness of other city assets like the winter shelter and other housing opportunities for those currently without a roof over their heads.
“I think it will go a long way,” Price said of the potential for the program to establish a sense of trust between city outreach and the homeless. “I know there are a lot of people out there who want to work, who want to get back on their feet, who want to explore changing their lifestyle but they don’t know how. The fact that they don’t have a house or an address literally precludes them from being able to apply for jobs.”
Price’s memo cites other cities like Tucson, Arizona and New Mexico which have implemented similar programs that have seen a number of participants go on to find permanent homes and jobs. Both programs allowed persons to work a few days a week and provided transportation to and from shelters and connected participants with non-profits after the work day ended to offer more services.
There are over 1,800 homeless people living in Long Beach and the city has made it a priority to address the issue as has much of the region. A voter approved ballot measure is expected to inject over $1 billion into the county for homeless services over the next 3 years.
For this project though, Price said the effort will likely have to start with raising funds through the communities. If the pilot program is successful and provides good data there could be a possibility where the funding is taken from the general fund in the future, but Price said its immediate future will depend on generosity.
“There’s a lot of anxiety out there about the situation and there are a lot of people who want to do something but they don’t know what to do,” Price said. “If we could build a campaign to donate to a day-work program instead to people directly, maybe that’s a way to raise money for the program.”
A report is expected back before the council within the next few months.