Life and Death: The Two Sides of Homelessness Shine Bright and Dark in Long Beach this Week • Long Beach Post

Photo above by Brian Addison. Photo below courtesy of Terri Henry.


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When it comes to homelessness in Long Beach, like anywhere else, it is a complicated beast where it is easy, during the course of a single week, to see the hopes of solving a crisis clash with the realities of that crisis.

Yesterday, hope was served as local Latin joint Cesar’s Bistro treated 200 homeless men, women, and children to a multi-course early lunch at homeless outreach facility Beacon for Him. The moment left Beacon founder Shannon Daniel James in a state of gratitude.

“Cesar’s Bistro partnered with us to do a truly incredible thing: they helped to serve over 200 hungry people,” James said. “Their amazing food brought hope and cheer to our guests—what a blessing.”

When it comes to homelessness, we abstract it, sometimes necessarily so, in order to either comfort ourselves or to better understand it. But with all these presumptions, we often forget the obvious part: that we are dealing with humans.

The simple act provides people constantly shunned with a moment of decency, a sense of belonging, and the communal power of sharing food.

That kind of beauty is not rare when it comes to Long Beach’s approach to homelessness: since March, a collective of organizations had been hosting outreach meetings at Lincoln Park in order to connect those experiencing homelessness and/or mental health issues with resources before the fence that currently surrounds the park went up.

The results? Four separate 2-hour outreach sessions in Lincoln Park have proved fruitful: 65 contacts have been made by this Civic Center Committee’s collaborative partners. During these contacts, those approached are provided all the information they need in order to connect with services, including travel if need be. Additionally, 12 people were given complimentary travel in order to reconnect with lost family and, just as importantly, get a roof over their head.

But as this week showed Long Beach’s heart with a huge meal for hundreds, Wednesday marks the darker reality of homelessness—and that is the fact that men, women, and children die in the throes of the troubling and outright dangerous living that is being homeless.

A memorial will be held tomorrow, December 21 at 6PM at Harvey Milk Park in DTLB to remember those persons who died on the streets in 2016. The event, hosted by the Long Beach Area Coalition for the Homeless, will have free parking, located at the 3rd Street parking garage adjacent to the park, and is open to everyone.

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“On the longest day of the year we come together, homed and homeless to honor those persons who passed while on the streets of our city,” said Steven Be Cotte, President of the coalition. “These people were more than names; they were brothers, sisters, parents, and children. They loved and were loved. They had dreams and ambitions, and were funny, creative, and sensitive as those who went home to an address every night. In reading the names of those who have passed, it strengthens our resolve to continue to work with the people on the street to assist them on their journey of life.”

Be Cotte’s words ring true for the many advocates who have tirelessly fought homelessness in Long Beach.

When it comes to homelessness, particularly if we are privileged, we pinpoint it as some random group’s inability to take advantage of opportunity, their lack of focusing and working hard, laziness, unwillingness to adapt to society’s norms… The list is an abyss of downward gazes.

When it comes to homelessness, we abstract it, sometimes necessarily so, in order to either comfort ourselves or to better understand it. But with all these presumptions, we often forget the obvious part: that we are dealing with humans.

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