“I never thought I’d end up homeless”

Two hundred volunteers offer Long Beach homeless resources and services during 2020 Homeless Count.

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“I never thought I’d end up homeless”

Malcolm Garret via Pexels

Malcolm Garret via Pexels

Malcolm Garret via Pexels

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[Editor’s note: The Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services requested media to identify homeless individuals only by their initials for security purposes.]

“I never thought I’d end up homeless,” said R.C., a 62-year-old Long Beach native.

He sipped on coffee from an empty capsule normally used for storing marijuana that he found in a dumpster. Another man had just poured him coffee from his own McCafe cup.

R.C. had grown up in Bixby Knolls.

“I came from a real nice family,” he said.

He had a house on the beach and a yacht at one point, but because of multiple divorce issues, he lost it all.

“At least I had things to lose, some people don’t have nothing,” he said as he lit a cigarette he found on the ground.

His bipolar disorder prevented him from getting a job or any type of housing. His coping mechanisms were another downfall.

“I used to deal with my highs and lows of being bipolar with alcohol,” he said. However, he recently became sober after being put on medications.

He’s been homeless on and off for years. Sometimes he stayed at a friend’s house but he decided to leave.

“I stayed on the track last night,” he said.

He thanked the volunteers, who surrounded him as he spoke, for recognizing the homeless issue in society.

After being given a gift card for taking the survey he said, “You see how God takes care of me?”

Around 200 individuals woke up before the crack of dawn on Thursday, Jan. 23, on a mission to count the homeless population throughout Long Beach as part of the 2020 Long Beach Homeless Count–– a citywide undertaking to identify the homeless in the community. The count was organized by the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, Homeless Services Division, with the purpose being to “understand the scope of homelessness in the City to help create services and housing for people experiencing homelessness.”

People were broken up into small groups of three to five, each dispatched to canvas different areas of Long Beach and collect data with a survey consisting of 20 questions.

The optional questions asked were regarding age, race, gender, disabilities and what caused them to become homeless.

Upon completion of the survey, homeless individuals were given a $5 gift card.

For the homeless who wanted information regarding where they could find shelter, volunteers gave them flyers with details about the City’s winter shelter. They were also advised about making use of the Multi-Service Center, located at 1301 W 12th St.

The center provides people with resources such as shower facilities, crisis counseling, employment assistance, housing placement, health care services, HIV/AIDS services, substance abuse and mental health treatment referrals, Veteran services, linkage to mainstream benefits and referrals to community resources.

An issue many homeless people faced was the lack of accommodation for their pets.

C.M., a Latina woman, approached from a nearby tent with her small dog to take the survey. She had lost her housing due to personal relationship issues and had now been homeless for over a year.

She had survived domestic violence, but her mental health was preventing her from getting a job or housing. Although she was provided with shelter information, she questioned about whether or not her dog would be accepted.

“The only downside is that they don’t want to accept my dog […] and I don’t want to leave my dog behind,” she said.

Other issues they faced was transportation. One man said they wouldn’t let him on the bus because of his appearance. Another man said his bike had been stolen, and someone else who had used the Multi-Service Center before said his van had just burned out.

The Homeless Count was previously done every two years but now it will be conducted annually, officials said.

This year, a Homeless Count smartphone application was introduced for the first time to assist as an electronic method to intake information during the count, which accompanied the once paper-only system.

“I appreciate what you ladies caring about the world,” R.C. said. “People should care more about people in this world.”