Homeless voices missing from mayor’s ‘Everyone Home Task Force’ • Long Beach Post

People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Margaret Hennessy, a renter and community leader with Long Beach Residents Empowered, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.

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On July 20, the city convened the second “Everyone Home Long Beach Task Force” meeting. The task force was assembled by Mayor Robert Garcia and consists of government officials, academic officials, faith leaders, developers and various nonprofits. Unfortunately, the task force lacks any direct representatives from housing advocacy organizations.

Because they were not asked to be a part of this effort, no one directly impacted by the rising rents that push people into substandard living conditions and homelessness is part of the conversations or involved in providing solutions to ensure that all Long Beach residents have a home.

As an attendee and impacted renter in the audience, the discussions came off as speculative and detached. This gave the impression that no real urgency was invested in the effort. As it came time for public comment, the conversation took a different direction.

This was the first moment the task force heard from real people currently facing homelessness and displacement in Long Beach. Stories were shared of rent hikes far beyond 10 percent that are driving people out of their homes or forcing them to pay more than 50 percent of their income on rent. Because of this economic trauma, individuals and families can’t afford to buy food or pay for the other necessities of life.

Why is this happening? Because landlords want to make a higher profit. Why do they want to do this? Because they can. Without local renter-protection laws in the city, landlords can do whatever they want.

How many task forces, study groups and consultants do we need to intellectualize what everyone with clear eyesight can see? The time for conversation and dialogue has long passed. It is time for local renter-protection laws to be enacted.

If you were in a terrible accident and taken to an emergency room, wouldn’t you expect the medical team to save your life? Would you be satisfied if the medical team stood around discussing future reconstructive surgery while you bled out? Absolutely not. You would expect them to do all the immediate interventions necessary to stabilize you and save your life before planning the next steps of your recovery—and those next steps would be discussed and agreed upon by you.

This is what needs to happen now in our housing emergency: People need to be kept in their homes. These need to be homes that are safe and livable. The city needs to pass laws that protect tenants now. Then, once everyone is safe in their home, we can all come together and have those conversations that lead to fair, sustainable and healthy living for everyone.

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