Long Beach wants you to donate pocket change to help keep people off the streets

Standing outside George’s Greek Cafe on Pine Avenue Wednesday morning, Mayor Robert Garcia pulled a burlap sack off the city’s newest effort to help combat homelessness.

Underneath the sack stood one of four new green “Change for Change” meters that the city has installed to collect donations for the Mayor’s Fund to End Homelessness, a fund that has existed since the 1990s.

Garcia said the meters will collect money that can help bridge the gaps that could keep people from falling into situations where they end up living on the city’s streets. The donations could go toward things like transportation to jobs or helping to pay for utility bills before services are turned off.

“Those are the types of issues that are really focused around prevention and where the Mayor’s Fund to End Homelessness will really focus,” Garcia said. “We can not only house those folks who are experiencing homelessness but also help to prevent the hundreds of people who are falling into homelessness in Long Beach and the surrounding areas.”

The fund’s donations have averaged about $25,000 per year according to Garcia but a reorganization of how it’s administered, and marketed could help drive those figures higher he said.

Part of the mayor’s announcement was that the administration of the fund would be handed over to the Long Beach Community Foundation which will help bring awareness to the fund and solicit donations from residents, businesses and corporations.

“You’re going to hear me knocking on doors and making some phone calls to encourage our business community and others to also give to the fund, “Garcia said. “We get asked all the time ‘How can we help?’ This is now a way that the community can directly help and support people in our community who are experiencing homelessness and need support.”

A release from the city also pointed out that switching administration to the Community Foundation has now made donations tax deductible.

Aside from the Pine Avenue location, three other donation meters have been installed in the city. One on Fourth Street on Retro Row near the Long Beach Art Theater and two others on Second Street along the Belmont Shore business corridor.

The funds will allow the city’s Health and Human Services Department fund efforts that the city says has been historically underfunded. Health and Human Services Department Director Kelly Colopy said that can range from helping someone pay for a ticket to their hometown that they might otherwise not be able to afford to school uniforms for children or furniture for a new apartment.

“Once a home becomes a home, people are more likely to stay in it,” Colopy said.

In its biannual homelessness count earlier this year the city found that 31 more people were living on the streets since its last report in 2017, however, 60% of those counted were considered chronically homeless, meaning they had passed the one-year mark of living on the streets. The city’s 2% increase in those experiencing homelessness was significantly lower than the figures reported in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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