Jerlene Tatum sits with other members of the community at the West Long Beach Association meeting in opposition to the city of Long Beach opening an emergency winter shelter in the Silverado Park gym. Photo courtesy of Jerlene Tatum

On Feb. 3, Long Beach city officials announced plans to open an emergency winter homeless shelter in Silverado Park’s gym. Given the lack of shelter space, frigid temperatures and the local state of emergency in response to the homelessness crisis, few people questioned the move at first.

But for the residents living near the site of the planned shelter in Silverado Park, the move was in direct opposition to the city’s plan to create equitable access to open space, which Long Beach announced in January 2022. Jerlene Tatum was among the first to oppose the shelter by setting up a tent and sleeping in the park. Her actions awakened a community, who started a petition and, eventually, the community regained access to the gym.

On today’s “The Word” podcast, she talks about why she took such a drastic step and the importance of community organizing.